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Heaviest sandstorm in 75 years chokes Israel


Air pollution soars, with Jerusalem recording levels 173 times higher than average • Hundreds of people treated for respiratory difficulties, with some children and adults needing hospitalization • Flights to Eilat grounded • No immediate relief in sight.

Meteorological reports on Tuesday confirmed what Israelis, who have not seen the sun or been able to breathe without coughing since Monday, already knew: The country is in the grips of a sandstorm of unprecedented scale.

Major sandstorms are typical in the spring, but on Tuesday Israel and its neighboring nations woke up to the heaviest September sandstorm in 15 years. In fact, according to the Israel Meteorological Service, such high levels of sand have not been noted in the 75 years that the weather has been officially recorded.

Naturally, air pollution levels soared. Jerusalem had the dubious honor of registering the worst air quality in the nation, with pollution levels 173 times higher than average. Afula in northern Israel had air 60 times more polluted than average, while Eilat saw levels that were 33 times higher.

The thick sand, which began as a storm in Syria, came hand in hand with oppressive temperatures. A heat wave hovered over the hillier regions and central Israel, and the coast was hot and steamy, with humidity of over 85%.

The weather conditions caused hundreds of cases of respiratory difficulty. Magen David Adom paramedics treated 255 people who had trouble breathing, while the emergency room at Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed treated more than 30 patients for respiratory trouble, two of whom had to be hospitalized in serious conditions.


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