Iran issues new sandstorm warnings as death toll reaches five

The city’s chief forecaster has warned that a new sandstorm may hit Tehran at about 3pm local time - residents were urged to stay indoors.

A dust storm blew over Tehran, Iran on 2 June 2014. A heavy dust storm of up to 110kph in Tehran damaging several cars and temporarily paralyzed the Iranian capital. Five people were killed by the storm and at least 40 injured. Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA
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TEHRAN // Iran has warned of a second sandstorm, a day after freak weather killed five people Tehran.

On Tuesday, the city’s chief forecaster Mohammad Ali Aziz-Oghli, warned another sandstorm may hit Tehran at about 3pm local time – though it is not expected to be of the same strength as Monday’s squall, people should stay indoors, he told IRNA news agency.

Monday’s powerful sandstorm and record winds plunged the capital into darkness for 15 minutes during rush hour and forced thousands to run for cover.

“One of the casualties, who was hospitalised after being hit by debris, lost his life due to the severe injuries,” the official IRNA news agency reported, raising the death toll to five.

The winds – as high as 110-120 kilometres per hour and the highest in 50 years – levelled trees and swept other heavy material across streets and into the windscreens of cars as people headed home from work.

News of the sandstorm and record winds hit the first page of Tehran’s newspapers, along with criticism that forecasters failed to predict or warn citizens of the approaching storm.

The surprise weather disrupted a ceremony for the national football team before they were to depart for the World Cup in Brazil, with President Hassan Rouhani cancelling his planned speech and leaving a 12,000-seat stadium largely empty.

The head of Tehran’s weather forecasting unit, Ahad Vazifeh, said his team had informed “relevant authorities” about the sandstorm. However, he said the timescale and wind speeds were not completely predictable.

His comments appeared to be in response to the anger in some media towards his department’s failure to give adequate warnings.

Power supplies were knocked out in at least 50,000 homes on Monday, an electricity official said. The weather also smashed windows and caused telecommunication towers to topple and masonry to peel off buildings.

* Associated France-Presse