Worst air pollution ever in Jerusalem as sandstorm engulfs Mideast
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Worst air pollution ever in Jerusalem as sandstorm engulfs Mideast

340 Israelis need medical treatment; satellite image shows dense cloud that led to two deaths in Lebanon

  • Israelis walk across the light rail tracks on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, September 8, 2015, as a sandstorm settles on the city. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Israelis walk across the light rail tracks on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, September 8, 2015, as a sandstorm settles on the city. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Illustrative: View from a Jerusalem rooftop of skies fogged up in a sandstorm, September 8, 2015. (Joe Hyams)
    Illustrative: View from a Jerusalem rooftop of skies fogged up in a sandstorm, September 8, 2015. (Joe Hyams)
  • A September 8 image of the Middle East during a sandstorm. (screenshot: NASA)
    A September 8 image of the Middle East during a sandstorm. (screenshot: NASA)
  • An Iraqi worker sprays water on the tarmac during a sandstorm in the capital Baghdad on September 1, 2015. (AFP Photo/Haidar Mohammed Ali)
    An Iraqi worker sprays water on the tarmac during a sandstorm in the capital Baghdad on September 1, 2015. (AFP Photo/Haidar Mohammed Ali)
  • Syrian children walk amid the dust during a sandstorm on September 7, 2015 at a refugee camp on the outskirts of the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek. (AFP Photo/STR)
    Syrian children walk amid the dust during a sandstorm on September 7, 2015 at a refugee camp on the outskirts of the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek. (AFP Photo/STR)
  • View of the Tel Aviv skyline in a dense sandstorm, September 08, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    View of the Tel Aviv skyline in a dense sandstorm, September 08, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Israelis walk in the Rehavia neighborhood in Jerusalem on September 8, 2015 during a sandstorm. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Israelis walk in the Rehavia neighborhood in Jerusalem on September 8, 2015 during a sandstorm. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Residents walk near the Chords Bridge in Jerusalem, September 8, 2015, as a sandstorm settles on the city. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Residents walk near the Chords Bridge in Jerusalem, September 8, 2015, as a sandstorm settles on the city. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hundreds of people in Israel were treated for respiratory problems and other weather-related ailments Tuesday as a sandstorm engulfed the region, with the cloud of dust massive enough to be seen from space.

Jerusalem recorded its worst air pollution levels ever, at 173 times normal levels. In some other parts of the country, air pollution levels were at their worst for 75 years.

Israel’s emergency medical service Magen David Adom reported that 340 Israelis received medical treatment as a result of the weather, including those suffering from asthma, respiratory problems, shortness of breath and heart issues.

“The MDA will continue to be on alert in light of the heatwave and dust storm,” MDA Director General Eli Bin said.

He urged Israelis to stay indoors, warning that the storm poses a real danger to people’s health, and asked that schools keep children indoors.

The dust has been making its way to Israel from Iraq and Syria over the past week.

Some 800 kilometers above the earth’s surface, NASA satellite images show Israel, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Jordan, Lebanon and parts of Syria covered in the thick brownish-yellow fog. According to the satellite data, the dust cloud rose 600 meters in the air.

In Israel, the concentration of sand particles was highest in the hills, including the Jerusalem area, the southern West Bank and the Golan Heights. In Jerusalem, pollution levels were 173 times higher than the average; in the Negev, 51 times higher; and in the Galilee, 32 times higher.

Meteorologists said the sandstorm would persist at least until Wednesday and be accompanied by a heatwave that would last until the weekend.

The dust storm also hit Lebanon’s coastal capital of Beirut on Tuesday, leaving two people dead, and people have been advised to stay indoors.

The Lebanese state news agency said at least 750 people fainted or suffered breathing problems because of the fine dust.

People have been warned against burning the trash that has piled up on Beirut streets this summer, sparking a political crisis and protests.

In Syria, the storm reached the capital, Damascus. The pro-government Syrian Al-Watan newspaper said the sand had forced the government to halt its airstrikes against rebel fighters north of the central province of Hama.

AFP contributed to this report.

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