Dust storm envelops Eastern Province

Motorists on King Fahd Road connecting Dammam with Khobar and leading to the King Fahd International Airport braving thick dust that enveloped the whole region Thursday morning. — Saudi Gazette photo

By Saeed Haider

Saudi Gazette

DAMMAM — Widespread dust enveloped the Eastern Province as a strong intensity dust storm hit the region in the forenoon of Thursday disrupting normal life in the cities of Dammam, Al-Khobar, Dhahran, Jubail, Al-Hasa, Qatif and other surrounding areas.

The storm with a strong wind of 42 kmph reduced visibility to 50 meters affecting and disrupting normal traffic movement in the region and forcing airlines to make adjustments in their flight schedule.

The educational institutions did not pay any heed to the general warning issued by the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection, which predicted intense dust storm, rain and fall in temperature from Wednesday to Sunday. All the educational institutions in region remained open, thus, causing immense hardship to school children and their parents.

King Fahd Road that connects Dammam to Alkhobar and leads to the airport saw scenes of utter confusion as motorists were desperately trying to reach school to “rescue” their children in almost zero visibility. The Traffic Department faced a tough situation amidst strong wind and biting dust. There were several incidents of minor collisions on the King Fahd Road as well as on Dammam-Jubail Highway. However until the time of reporting there were no reports of any grievous mishap.

Saudi Arabian Transport Company (SAPTCO) as well as Saudi Railways that operates regular service to Riyadh via Ahsa and Abqaiq also have had to reschedule the arrival and departure of buses and trains.

The King Fahd Causeway, though geared to meet weekend rush, did not anticipate such severe dust storm and as a result witnessed huge queue forming at all the gates on both the side of the bridge that connects Saudi Arabia with Bahrain.

Hospitals in Dammam and Alkhobar reported sporadic cases of cough, eye irritation and some severe cases of bronchitis. Doctors advised residents to remain indoors unless it is absolutely necessary to go out.

Markets, on opening in Dammam and Alkhobar, wore a deserted look. Several shopkeepers in Dammam’s gold market kept their shutters down as they did not expect buyers in such a chaotic conditions. Restaurants in Subaikha area as well as in the vicinity of Pakistani school in Alkhobar reported poor business.

The weather department has urged residents to stay indoors as rough weather is expected to continue for next three days. There are chances of sandstorm and even thunderstorm accompanied by heavy rains. The schools have not made any announcements in this regard, presumably because Friday and Saturday are weekends.

“We will watch the weather during next two days and then take a decision. As of now schools will open on Sunday,” said principal of an international school in Dammam. “We will intimate parents through SMS if schools are closed due to harsh weather conditions,” he added.