Iraq closed public buildings and temporarily shut airports Monday as another sandstorm — the ninth since mid-April — hit the country.
More than 1,000 people were hospitalized across the nation with respiratory problems, health ministry spokesman Seif al-Badr told AFP.
Flights were also grounded in neighboring Kuwait for a second time this month, as the region grapples with the increasingly frequent weather phenomenon.
The Iraqi capital Baghdad was enveloped in a giant dust cloud that left usually traffic-choked streets largely deserted and bathed in an eery orange light, AFP correspondents said.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi ordered all work to cease in state-run institutions, except for health and security services, citing “poor climatic conditions and the arrival of violent sandstorms”.
Air traffic was suspended at the international airports in Baghdad, Arbil and Najaf, before flights resumed at Baghdad and Arbil.