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  17 May 2022, 15:59

Sandstorm blankets Saudi capital in grey haze

RIYADH, May 17, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - A sandstorm engulfed Saudi Arabia's capital 
and other regions of the desert kingdom Tuesday, hampering visibility and 
slowing road traffic.

A thick grey haze made iconic Riyadh buildings such as Kingdom Centre nearly 
impossible to see from more than a few hundred metres (yards) away, though 
there were no announced flight delays or cancellations. 

The kingdom's meteorology centre forecast "surface dusty winds" in the 
country's east and in Riyadh, "reducing horizontal sight", according to the 
official Saudi Press Agency.

Dusty conditions were also expected farther west in the holy cities of Mecca 
and Medina, according to the forecast.

Electronic signs along Riyadh's highways warned drivers to reduce their speed 
because of the lower visibility. 

In central Riyadh, sand layered cars and buildings, and residents struggled 
to keep it out of their homes.

"Working outside is very difficult because of the dirt," a Pakistani 
construction worker who gave his name as Kalimullah told AFP as he installed 
tiles.

"I try to wash my face from time to time," the 30-year-old added, wrapping a 
piece of cloth around his face to block the sand. 

Saudi office worker Abdullah Al-Otaibi said he was grateful he works indoors. 

"Dust storms are part of our culture and we are used to it, but some of them 
are severe," said Al-Otaibi, 39, rubbing his eyes as he hurried into his 
office building. 

Parts of Saudi Arabia typically see sandstorms between March and May, with 
varying intensity. The frequency of the storms has increased in recent months 
in the region. 

Neighbouring Iraq has experienced eight sandstorms since mid-April, a 
phenomenon fuelled by soil degradation, intense droughts and low rainfall 
linked to climate change.

In Iran on Tuesday, government offices and schools and universities were 
closed in many provinces due to "unhealthy weather" and sandstorms, state 
media reported.
 

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