The township of Al Dhakheera was among the places worst hit by Wednesday’s sandstorm as several houses and the primary health centre there were partially buried in sand.
The road leading to the primary health centre was buried under thick layers of sand following the sandstorm, which made it difficult for people to drive to the centre for medical emergency.
Several houses also bore the brunt of the heavy storm as they were left surrounded by heaps of sand.
A senior civic official responsible for public cleaning told The Peninsula he had seen several sandstorms in the past but none of this intensity.
“These were giant avalanches of sand the high winds swept along. We never saw anything like this before. It used to be strong wind and dust before, but this time the quantity of sand the wind swept along was massive,” said Safar Mubarak Al Shafi (pictured), Director of Public Hygiene, Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning.
He said aside from Al Dhakheera, highways like Al Khor-Ras Laffan were submerged keen-deep in sand.
So many other roads that snake through desert areas were also severely affected, and traffic was hit.
“On hearing the plight of people in Al Dhakheera and about the condition of roads outside Doha, we rushed our public cleaning teams with equipment. Our priority was to clear the blocked roads and homes.”
Al Shafi said the heaps of sand in which the primary health centre was partially buried were removed early on Thursday to facilitate people with health woes to reach there.
“Then, we cleared the heaps that blocked so many homes in the township.”
The roads are always cleared in coordination with traffic police and general police as they must control traffic and monitor the security situation, said Al Shafi.
He earlier told local Arabic daily Al Raya in comments published yesterday that within hours after road cleaning work began at 10am on Thursday, some 900 tonnes (or 100 truckloads) of sand were estimated to have been cleared from the roads.
Asked about the clean-up, Al Shafi said: “Cleaning work is still going on and sand, whose quantity should be unimaginably high, has been removed by now.
“Our priority is now cleaning up internal roads,” he said, adding several sand removal machines have been deployed.
New machines have arrived but they will start working a week later. They were ordered earlier.
He said due to the high wind late on Wednesday, seven trees were uprooted in Al Rayyan and three in Doha.
In areas like Al Jamialiya and Umm Baab in the west, nearly all roads were blocked following the sandstorm but they have been cleared. The approach road to Al Khor Hospital has also been cleared.
Meanwhile, Dr Batool Khaifa, who teaches at Qatar University, told local Arabic daily Al Arab that she was waiting for her son to arrive from the UK late on Wednesday night and as she was worried and called Hamad International Airport (HIA), she was told that they were using an ultra-modern technology comprising high-intensity coloured lights to guide incoming planes.
Al Raya reported on its website later yesterday that eight flights were diverted from Dammam and Bahrain airports to HIA, while three bound from HIA for two cities were delayed due to problems at airports there.
People, meanwhile, lauded the role of social media and said they received regular updates on the sandstorm and that helped because some users talked of precautions to be taken by motorists.
But people were generally critical of the weather bureau and said it had failed to alert them over the sandstorm in advance.
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