More than 600 Israelis have been treated for the effects of the massive sandstorm that has blanketed the country since Tuesday morning, the Magen David Adom national emergency medical services said Wednesday.
With the air heavy with sand and familiar skylines a distant blur, MDA paramedics have tended to 632 people, including more than 374 who suffered shortness of breath and asthma attacks. More than 83 people fainted and more than 175 people suffered from an exacerbation of existing heart conditions.
Due to the weather, the Israeli airline Israir canceled all flights to and from Eilat’s airport until Thursday morning. At that stage, the company will assess conditions and then decide whether to resume flights or not.
The airline believes that landing at the Uvda airport will be possible, after which passengers will be bused to Eilat, a distance of some 60 kilometers (40 miles).
The Environmental Protection Ministry reissued its warning Wednesday against being outside for extended periods and reminded people to avoid any excessive outdoor physical activity.
According to meteorological estimates, the storm is set to pass before the weekend. Temperatures are expected to drop slightly before the start of the Jewish High Holidays next Sunday.
Jerusalem on Tuesday recorded its worst-ever air-pollution levels — at 173 times that of the normal levels. In other parts of the country, air-pollution levels were at their worst in 75 years.
Some 800 kilometers (497 miles) 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 (656 yards) into the air.
In Israel, the concentration of sand particles was highest in the hills, including the Jerusalem area; in the southern West Bank; and in the Golan Heights.
Other than the record-breaking pollution levels in Jerusalem, the readings in the Negev were 51 times higher than regular; and in the Galilee, 32 times higher.