By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO
Just as the sun began to set on a perfect spring day, the populous of Kuwait was thrown into dangerous weather conditions with zero warning and even less preparedness. This past Friday, as families sat on beaches and patches of grass enjoying the day, the cool sunny skies soon started to gray. For many, it seemed as if the night had come early or perhaps there was a fire nearby.
What no one knew was that one of the largest and most deadly sandstorms was about to strike Kuwait in mere moments with such force that homes would become filled with sand despite all the windows being closed and property damage would be visible on every street. There was no warning or alarm. There were no weather forecasts or predications. Parents were caught off guard as the sandstorm swiftly rolled in. There was no time to protect the children or even the elderly. As a result, scores of children were at the mercy of the storm and scores became lost inside of it. The fortunate ones were those who were able to duck into their cars or find some sort of refuge. For others, especially in the open desert areas of Kuwait, there was nowhere to run.
The storm was relentless and stubbornly refused to abate for several hours as it dumped tons of sand all over Kuwait. Kuwaitâ€™s International Airport was forced to close for a full 24 hours and oil production was brought to a screeching halt. Countless shoppers were stranded in stores and malls. Those who had opted to stay home for the day fought a losing battle with the sand as it penetrated every crack and crevice to fill homes with plumes of red â€œsmokeâ€. Drivers on the roads and highways had little recourse but to pull over and hunker down in their cars until it was safe to drive. However, not all drivers chose to weather out the storm as reports of several car accidents were reported during the violent sandstorm.
The aftermath of the sandstorm was evident in any direction you turned. The polyclinics and hospitals soon filled up with patients complaining of a wide array of respiratory ailments. Several cities in Kuwait faced water shortages, which left many families unable to clean their homes or even quench their thirst. Worst yet, four people were killed as a result of the sandstorm and innumerable injured.
No one really knows what went wrong with the flow of information or why the Kuwaiti government failed to give residents of Kuwait proper warning that the sandstorm was set to strike. However, there is a lot of finger pointing abound this week and a populous that is outraged beyond belief. According to Kuwaiti Meteorologist Essa Ramadan, the metrological department predicted the sandstorm three days prior and gave proper warning to governmental authorities. However, it remains to be seen why the warning was not taken seriously or if it was even given.
Another meteorologist named Adel Al-Saadoun is pointing his finger squarely at the Directorate General for Civil Aviationâ€™s (DGCA) meteorological department, which is coincidentally supervised by Ramadan. In a statement to the press Al-Saadoun said, â€œMillions of Kuwaiti dinars have been spent on equipment that could automatically detect such sandstorms before they hit the country.â€ For whatever reason, the metrological department failed miserably in giving the denizens of Kuwait proper warning to protect their lives and property. An entire population is wondering why they were left in the crosshairs of a mega sandstorm that would take days to relent and cross the greater part of the Gulf region.