At least two people have died and hundreds have been left in need of hospital treatment as winds blowing in from the east push a huge sandstorm across the near-eastern Levant region.
Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine and Israel and parts of Turkey have been affected by the clouds of dust, disrupting flights due to the reduced visibility.
The Sand Storm of today / Modus Satellite, NASA. From Iraq to the Mediterranean sea (CNRS-L, Remote Sensing Center) pic.twitter.com/KgReziOi7x
— Mouin HAMZE (@MouinHamze) September 8, 2015
According to Reuters, flights to the Larnaca airport on the south-eastern coast of Cyprus were diverted to Paphos airport in the west of the island after visibility fell to 500 metres.
Regime jets in Syria were also grounded with less air strikes being recorded on Monday due to the storm, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.
In Lebanon, two women died and 750 people were hospitalised after being overcome by breathing problems, the Lebanese Health Ministry stated.
Both deaths occurred in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley - one of the worst hit regions - where at least 130 people were hospitalised according to the Red Cross.
— Alexis Lai (@alexisklai) September 8, 2015
Ten people were also reportedly hospitalised in Cyprus.
Authorities in Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus have also warned their citizens to stay indoors and advised them not to go out without a face mask.
There was a terrible sandstorm in Bethlehem. This is the sun at 10 AM over the Church of the Nativity pic.twitter.com/ULvDIjfO0o
— Bob (@RLHolste) September 8, 2015
"We will continue to track and monitor developments. For sensitive populations, short term exposure to such dense clusters of particulates can cause a stroke, heart attacks, and even death,” an official from the Israeli Environment Ministry's Air Monitoring Center told the Y-Net news website.
The storm, made worse by the summer humidity in the region, is expected to last until Wednesday or Thursday.
— Said Shoaib | Gaza (@saidshouib) September 8, 2015