JUNE 2014 – IRAN – Iranian authorities warned on Tuesday of harsh weather conditions across the country, a day after a freak sandstorm with record winds killed five people in Tehran. The warning of possible floods and drastic temperature drops, particularly in the northern parts of the country, in the next few days came after Monday’s deadly sandstorm that forced thousands in the capital to run for cover in rush hour. Earlier Tuesday, a warning was issued for a possible second sandstorm that failed to materialize by the evening. “One of the casualties, who was hospitalized after being hit by debris, lost his life due to the severe injuries,” the official IRNA news agency reported Tuesday, raising the death toll to five. The winds, as high as 110-120 kilometers per hour (70-80 miles per hour), leveled trees and swept other heavy material across streets and into the windscreens of cars as people headed home from work. The news of the sandstorm and highest winds in 50 years hit the first page of the capital’s newspapers, along with criticism of forecasters for failing to predict or warn citizens of the approaching storm.
The surprise weather disrupted a ceremony for the national football team before they depart for the World Cup in Brazil, with President Hassan Rouhani cancelling his planned speech, leaving a 12,000-seat stadium largely empty. Ahad Vazifeh, head of Tehran’s weather forecasting and warnings unit, said his team had informed the “relevant authorities” about the sandstorm. However, he said the timescale and wind speeds were not completely predictable. His comments followed the anger in some media towards his department for failing to give adequate warnings. Mohammad Ali Aziz-Oghli, the city’s chief forecaster, warned of another sandstorm hitting Tehran at about 3:00 pm (1030 GMT), albeit not of the same strength, urging people to stay indoors. But the second storm did not materialize. Power supplies were knocked out in at least 50,000 homes on Monday, an electricity official said. The weather also caused telecommunication towers to topple and masonry to fall off buildings. –Space Daily