The world’s tallest building has disappeared behind a gray layer today as sandstorms swept across the Middle East hitting the United Arab Emirates, triggering weather and traffic warnings.
The 828-meter (2,716-foot, 6-inch) Burj Khalifa, visible across towers over Dubai and the usually busy financial hub, retreats behind a veil of airborne debris that covers most of the country.
The UAE is the latest country to be hit by a sandstorm that has stalled Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran and others in recent days, shutting down airports and schools and sending thousands of people to hospital with shortness of breath.
According to waqi.info and the Plume Pollution App, the air quality index (AQI) in the capital city of Abu Dhabi rose to “dangerous” areas overnight.
Sandstorms in the Middle East are becoming more frequent and intense, a trend associated with overgrazing and deforestation, excessive use of river water, and more dams.
Experts say climate change is disrupting regional climate patterns and driving desertification could make the situation worse.
Emirati authorities have issued a nationwide warning urging residents to remain vigilant.
“Abu Dhabi police are urging drivers to be vigilant due to high winds and low visibility during dust,” police tweeted, as residents took to social media to post photos and videos.
“Please do not be confused with any video or using your phone,” it added.
– ‘Dangerous Weather’ –
A graphic from the National Center for Meteorology shows that almost all countries are covered by storms, with caution: “Beware: Dangerous weather events are expected.”
The wind is blowing dust at speeds of up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) per hour, it said, adding that visibility has dropped to less than 2,000 meters (2,200 yards) in some areas.
However, a spokesman for the Dubai airport said there was no impact on air traffic. The weather is expected to remain the same for the next few days.
In neighboring Saudi Arabia, which was badly damaged on Tuesday, the situation in the capital Riyadh eased on Wednesday but visibility in the city center continued to be limited.
Emergency rooms at a hospital in Riyadh have 1,285 people suffering from shortness of breath due to the sandstorm.
The Saudi National Weather Service said dust was also affecting visibility to the west and south, particularly in the provinces of Asir, Najran, Hail and Medina. Medina is the abode of the city of Medina, the second holiest city in Islam.
The Center has forecast another sandstorm in the state by Sunday.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)