An unprecedented sand storm swept across northern and eastern Lebanon on Tuesday sending some 160 people to hospital with breathing difficulties, the Lebanese Red Cross said.
The Meteorological Department at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport described the storm as being “unprecedented” in Lebanon’s modern history.
Visibility was significantly reduced and the Traffic Management Centre advised drivers to be cautious in order to avoid accidents.
The National News Agency said the northern Lebanese district of Akkar was hit the hardest.
The Health Ministry urged those suffering from respiratory and heart problems to stay indoors.
In neighbouring Syria, the sand storm affected the area of al-Mayadeen in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour. But hospitals had stopped receiving patients because of the high number of people suffering from breathing problems.
Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the hospital had run out of oxygen cylinders.
The storm had also ensured that airstrikes in central and northern Syria had stopped, Abdel-Rahman further said.
The Israeli Environment Ministry, meanwhile, warned of the health repercussions of the storm, stretching from northern Israel, Galilee, to central areas, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Ynet news reported.
The ministry warned citizens against outdoor activities at schools and said those with health conditions should refrain from strenuous labour or physical exertion, the report added.
Emergency services also warned heart patients, the elderly and pregnant women to be careful.