Sunday, 2 August 2009

Dust sweeps across the UAE

August 02, 2009 - Abu Dhabi

The slow-moving dust cloud that settled on the Emirates before the weekend is expected to dissipate by Tuesday.

However, there may be only a brief respite, as more winds are expected to blow towards the UAE from northern Iraq, where the dust originates.

“The problem now is dust is starting again in that area,” said Ahmed Habib, a meteorologist with the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology.

“There is another one coming from Iraq, but we will wait to determine when exactly it will come here.”

Visibility in most parts of the country yesterday was around 1,000m, although it was reduced to 300m in the west. Mr Habib said the lack of wind meant that the dust was suspended in the air and that visibility would improve only by a few hundred metres a day.

“Wind is light and moving to the south-east, so it’s dissipating gradually,” he said.

“When wind is light to moderate, it means very gradual movement.”

The light winds mean that fishermen at least will still be able to take small boats to sea despite the poor visibility, he said.

In the meantime, asthma sufferers were warned to avoid exposure to the dust. “It’s better to keep in the house today,” he said.

Mr Habib also cautioned motorists to be vigilant on the roads.

From Iraq, the haze moved towards Kuwait and over the Arabian Sea and eastern Saudi Arabia, then over Bahrain and Qatar before blowing to the UAE, Mr Habib said.

In Saudi Arabia, hospital emergency rooms were “packed” over the weekend with people complaining about breathing problems, according to Arab News.

The newspaper quoted a nurse at Dammam hospital saying the facility “received children and elderly men and women with choked throats and breathlessness ... many of them with a history of asthma”.

The patients were put on nebulisers to clear their choked lungs.

It followed six fatalities on Thursday in road accidents caused by the poor visibility in the kingdom’s Eastern Region, the paper added.

In Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, a heavy sandstorm flooded hospitals with people suffering from respiratory problems. Health officials said patients complained about shortness of breath and other problems.