Deadly sandstorm sweeps across Middle East

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The worst sandstorm in years blanketed parts of Lebanon and Syria on Tuesday, leaving at least 8 people dead and sending hundreds to hospital.

Six people were killed in Syria, including two children, a monitoring group said.

In Lebanon, two people died and some 750 others were hospitalized with breathing difficulties and lung damage, the Health Ministry said.

The massive storm also affected Jordan and Israel.

Governments warned the ill and the elderly, as well as pregnant women and children, to avoid strenuous activities.

The Meteorological Department at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport described the storm as “unprecedented” in Lebanon’s modern history.

In neighbouring Syria, the sandstorm engulfed areas of the eastern city Deir al-Zour. Hospitals reportedly stopped admitting patients because of the high number of people suffering from breathing problems.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the hospital had run out of oxygen cylinders.

The storm also halted airstrikes in central and northern Syria, said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the monitoring group.

Eitan Maza, a forecaster at the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, said the sandstorm originated from a low depression in north-eastern Syria, carrying sand from the desert across the region.

“In Israel, this was the highest concentration of dust measured in the month of September in the last 15 years, and, in Jerusalem, it was the highest concentration of dust which was ever measured in the last 15 years,” Maza told dpa.

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