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Monday 31 October 2005
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IRAQ: Freak sandstorm brings rush on Baghdad hospitals

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

BAGHDAD, 9 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - At least two deaths and more than 2,000 cases of people with breathing difficulties were reported in Baghdad on Monday after an unseasonal sandstorm, believed to be the worst in the country’s history, hit the Iraqi capital.

The largest number of patients was recorded in one particular hospital in the city.

“In our hospital, we reported two cases of death caused by suffocation due to the sandstorm and more than 1,200 cases of breathing difficulties - some acute and others chronic,” said Dr Hayder Alladin of Yarmouk hospital, one of Baghdad’s busiest.

Children and the elderly were worst affected, he said.

Alladin said the sandstorm had a serious effect on the lungs of the patients, many of whom required intensive oxygen therapy. Many people had to wait for hours for treatment.

“My daughter is in a very critical condition due to the sandstorm and oxygen is very scarce in the hospital,” said Hadeer Nader, 23, the mother of a newborn girl admitted to Yarmouk.

Alladin said that the hospital had asked the government for more supplies, but has yet to receive a response.

“I cannot image what will happen if the storms continue in the coming days,” he said. “We have a lack of oxygen and are in urgent need of supplies.”

Meteorologists in the capital were surprised by the intensity of the storm, which reduced visibility to near zero, and warned of more to come over the next few days.

“It’s the first time in our records that a sandstorm has been so strong and the most surprising thing is that it has occurred outside the usual season,” meteorologist Yassin Abdul Kader said.

Smaller storms are common in Iraq in April and May.

Most shops were forced to close during the storm, which brought daily life, already constrained by insecurity, to a virtual standstill. On Tuesday shopkeepers and restaurant workers could be seen cleaning up the debris.

Protective face masks have been the most sought after items in shops, particularly after a local Iraqi television station announced that the storm could return again at any time.

The sandstorm also delayed a meeting of the committee drafting the new Iraqi constitution, local sources said, which increased the time pressure to present a final draft, scheduled for 15 August.


 Theme(s) Health
Other recent IRAQ reports:

Steps taken to head off bird flu,  27/Oct/05

Government hails poll as fair as Sunnis call for recount,  26/Oct/05

Concern for journalists’ safety following bombings ,  25/Oct/05

Palestinian refugees complain of persecution and seek to leave,  20/Oct/05

Saddam Hussein goes on trial, but some still support him,  19/Oct/05

Other recent Health reports:

PAKISTAN: Interview with WHO country head, Khalif Bile Mohamud, 28/Oct/05

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Countries must prepare for bird flu, 28/Oct/05

KENYA: Limited immunisation campaign launched after measles outbreak, 28/Oct/05

IRAQ: Steps taken to head off bird flu, 27/Oct/05

PAKISTAN: Urgent need for shelter as aid slowly reaches sick and injured, 27/Oct/05

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