Sandstorm Engulfs Israel, Prompting Health Warning

Seniors, young children and pregnant women urged to stay inside; storm kills 2 in Lebanon and 6 in Syria.

Moti Milrod

A severe dust storm arrived Tuesday in Israel, covering parts of the country in a heavy haze that could pose a health risk to some, the environmental protection ministry said.

The sandstorm also swept across other parts of the Middle East, killing two people and hospitalizing hundreds in Lebanon, and killing six and disrupting air strikes in neighboring Syria. It also covered parts of Jordan and Cyprus where aircraft were diverted as visibility fell to 500 meters. 

The muggy weather was said to be the result of a sandstorm originating in Syria and Iraq now passing over Israel, and is expected to continue throughout the day, even extending into Wednesday, accented by a possible heat wave, the Meteo-Tech meteorological service said.

The ministry issued a warning in wake of the storm, saying the massive concentration of dust particles could penetrate into the respiratory system, posing a potential threat to seniors, young children and pregnant woman, as well as those suffering from heart or lung issues.

Pedestrians walk near the Tower of David in Jerusalem's Old City during a sandstorm
Reuters

Especially large levels of dust were registered in Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Judea region in the West Bank, and the ministry recommended avoiding strenuous activities and spending prolonged periods of time outdoors.

Ziv Medical Center in Safed treated thirty asthmatic patients, including children, suffering from respiratory problems due to the haze.

Flights to and from Eilat on Arkia and Israir have been canceled for the rest of the day. The two airlines have both offered to pay the passengers for bus transportation and refund their airline ticket, if they choose this option, airline representatives said.

Lethal storm

A man drives with his face covered during a sandstorm in Jerusalem September 8, 2015
Reuters

Lebanon's Health Ministry said two people had died as a result of the storm and 750 people had been hospitalized with breathing problems.

According to reports, six have also been killed in Syria, including two children.

The Red Cross in Lebanon said 130 people had been taken to hospital complaining of breathing problems in the eastern Bekaa Valley and northern district of Akkar on Monday and Tuesday.

Lebanon's weather department in the civil aviation authority said the storm would continue into Wednesday with humidity between 65-85 percent, state news agency NNA reported.

The dust would begin to dissipate late on Wednesday, it added. 

Heavy haze over Tel Aviv caused by dust storm. September 8, 2015.
Haaretz
Sand storm hits Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon. September 7, 2015.
AFP

There were fewer air strikes in Syria on Monday as the storm engulfed the sky, said Rami Abdulrahman from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Israel to grow hotter

In terms of the forecast, Tuesday will be partly cloudy to clear with a rise in the temperature to unseasonable levels, with sharav conditions in the hills and inland, and muggy on the coast. The Galilee and Golan may see some light local showers in the afternoon. The heat wave will continue Wednesday and Thursday. Friday will cool down, although it will still be warmer than usual for this time of year and muggy along the coast.