A heavy sandstorm hit Israel early Tuesday morning, blowing in from Syria and Jordan in the northwest. The storm considerably raised air pollution levels in northern Israel, particularly in the Jezreel Valley, the Jordan Valley and the Samaria region.
Shortly after the storm began, Israeli emergency rescue service Magen David Adom (MDA) announced plans to address the increased demand for medical attention. “Due to the intense heat that remains throughout the country, we are going through special assessments to provide medical care to victims that may suffer from the heat, as well as from haze and dust that hit the country overnight,” said MDA Chairman Eli Bin. “I call on everyone to be attentive to the recommendations from Magen David Adom in order to prevent casualties.”
MDA advised elderly and pregnant women as well as those suffering from heart and lung diseases to remain indoors for the time being, with the windows closed. In addition, MDA suggested that the public avoid outdoor activities.
Yoni Yagodovsky, director of MDA’s International Department, told Tazpit that there has been a 20%-30% increase in the volume of calls received by his organization, mainly from people experiencing difficulty breathing.
In particular, there has been a large number of elderly people suffering from asthma and respiratory disorders, who have been seeking medical assistance, he said. The elderly are being treated at local clinics or by MDA teams in ambulances.
“There has been an increase of 30%-40% in asthma attacks for children in kindergarten and elementary school,” Yagodovsky told Tazpit. He added that MDA has also been providing medical care to those with chronic diseases who have been experiencing chest pains and breathing problems.
The storm also led to a number of car accidents, due to low visibility caused by the high concentration of dust in the air. “Visibility is extremely bad in the mountains, but near the (Mediterranean) sea it is better,” said Yagodovsky. “MDA is asking that people drive slowly and to use headlights.”