Sandstorms in Al Gharbia may intensify over the next few days and reduce visibility to as little as 1,000m, meterologists warned yesterday. Strong north-westerly winds blew a duststorm in from Iraq yesterday, according to the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology. The storms have already engulfed Iran and Iraq for the past week, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar have also been put on alert.
Visibility in western cities including Ruwais, Ghuwaifat and Al Hamra was cut to about 2,000 metres yesterday, and could fall to 1,000 metres today, compared to the usual 5,000 metres, the NCMS said. "In the west of the UAE there will be a big effect but from Abu Dhabi to the north, Dubai and Ras al Khaimah, we are just expecting slightly reduced visibility," a forecaster from the centre said. "If people [in Al Gharbia] have any existing health problems such as asthma then they should avoid going outside."
Seas are also expected to be "moderate or rough". "Those planning to go swimming or use boats should take care," the forecaster said. In Iraq, the storms left the US military's senior commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, stranded in Kirkuk on a visit, disrupted satellite transmissions and put hundreds in hospital with respiratory problems. Saudi Arabia has warned citizens that the storms, estimated to be carrying two billion tonnes of dust, could hit the kingdom this week, and advised motorists to delay trips until the weather settles.