After almost a week of choking dust blanketing Israel — the worst sandstorm to hit the Jewish state in its history — the Environmental Protection Ministry said Saturday that the thick yellowish-brown particles filling the air have begun to dissipate.
There has been a significant improvement in air quality across the country and a sharp reduction in air pollution levels, the ministry said, according to Channel 2 television.
Nonetheless, the ministry is still advising people with heart or lung conditions, children and pregnant women to refrain from strenuous physical activity out of doors.
The ministry said Friday that the sandstorm which began Tuesday, along with the one experienced in February of this year, have seen the highest concentration of dust particles in the air since the creation of the state in 1948, Channel 10 reported.
A sharp rise in temperature on Wednesday added to the already difficult weather conditions, and forecasters on Thursday predicted that the dust, heatwave and high humidity would only taper off Saturday evening.
By its second day, the massive sandstorm broke both electricity usage and air pollution records across the country.
According to figures announced by the Israel Electric Corporation, power usage broke an all-time record as Israelis tried to keep cool — surpassing an earlier all-time high set during a heatwave last month.
The Environmental Protection Ministry reported in several parts of the country that air pollution levels during the storm were at their worst in 75 years.
On Tuesday, air pollution in Jerusalem was 173 times higher than average; in the Negev, 51 times higher than average; and in the Galilee, 32 times higher than average.
The ministry on Wednesday evening re-issued a warning advising Israelis against being outside for extended periods, and reminded people to avoid any excessive outdoor physical activity.