Iraq continues to experience violence -- the war has not ended. And maybe it's time that injuries caused as a result of what we've done -- and are doing -- to our planet were included as violence?
A dust storm has swept through much of Iraq, leaving dozens of people in hospital with respiratory problems, a health ministry spokesperson said on Saturday.
The storm formed in the north of the country on Thursday, prompting the cancellation of flights serving Erbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region.
As the storm swept south, it shrouded Baghdad and cities as far south as Nasiriyah in a ghostly orange.
It's the month of April. Dust storms aren't uncommon in Iraq. For example, April 7, 2009, Barack Obama, then US president, snuck into Iraq without any public announcement until after he arrived. He was supposed to tour (strut through) the Green Zone for the western press to take pictures and video of him beaming triumphantly. Instead, a dust storm left him confined to Camp Victory (though some stated at the time that the dust storm had nothing to do with that confinement, it was a security concern that developed as he was en route to Iraq). Dust storms do happen. But, in Iraq, they are now happening more often and they are worse when they do occur. This not by chance, they have "increased from 243 to 272 days per year over the past two decades, and is expected to reach 300 dusty days annually in 2050." Louise Franco (NATURE WORLD NEWS) notes:
Although sand storms are common in Iraq, they have become more frequent over the years due to various weather and climatic factors, such as declining rainfall, desertification, and drought, according to Amer al-Jabri, director of Iraq's meteorological office, as cited by France 24 news.
And PHYS.ORG adds, "In November, the World Bank warned that Iraq could suffer a 20 percent drop in water resources by 2050 due to climate change."
And though AFP went with ''dozens'' for the number hospitalized, that is not correct, it's hundreds. On Friday, Julian Bechocha (RUDAW) reported:
A severe dust storm sweeping Iraq and the Kurdistan Region has resulted in five deaths in Salahaddin province’s Tuz Khurmatu along with hundreds of hospitalizations in Erbil and Sulaimani.
“Five civilians have died of dust in Khurmatu and others have suffered from strain and are receiving treatment due to the density of the dust,” Sherwan Abdulrahim, the assistant director of Khurmatu hospital, told Rudaw on Friday.
In the Kurdistan Region’s capital of Erbil, 222 civilians were admitted to the city's emergency hospitals after suffering from breathing problems that arose from the dust storm, according to a statement from Erbil’s health directorate on Friday.
Another 45 people were hospitalized in Sulaimani, the city’s health directorate told Rudaw.
Abdulrahim added that the five casualties are among 21 people who had been taken to the hospital as a result of the dust storm.
Repeating, 222. The storm started on Thursday in the KRG and began moving southward. AFP says "dozens" were hospitalized from the storm and they say that reporting late Saturday. No. By Friday, in Erbil alone, 222 had been hospitalized. Hundreds across Iraq were hospitalized. ALSUMARIA notes 207 hospitalized in Karbala Province (central Iraq) alone. 429 is not "dozens" -- nor is 429 the entire number for Iraq - it's the number for one hospital system in the city of Erbil (northern Iraq) and one province (Karbala) in central Iraq.
It's not a minor story in Iraq. Not only are their multiple Iraqi outlets reporting, ALMADA newspaper front pages Mahmoud Raouf's photo and dubs it photo of the day.
In other news, Hussein al-Amel (ALMADA) reports that the recent attacks on teachers and students in Dhi Qar Province (60 attacks on teachers in the first semester of school alone) has led to the arrest on Friday of one person who attacked a teacher while Wednesday saw two arrests for the attempted attack on a student. Last Tuesday saw the arrest of a shooter.