April 02, 2018
The northwestern provinces of East and West Azerbaijan have been hit by a salt storm circling Lake Urmia over the past ten days. Salt storms pose serious health hazards. The toxic pollutants in the water vapor crystallize to form salt flats. If the toxins and minerals that are blown into the air by the storm are inhaled, they could cause throat cancer, infant mortality, and birth defects.
“Lake Urmia’s surface area has shrunk by 11 square kilometers in the past year. It currently measures around 2,219.50 square kilometers,” Farhad Sarkhosh, the director of the Lake Urmia project in West Azerbaijan, said. “The volume of water in the lake has dropped by 20,000 cubic meters. The water level currently measures 1.88 billion cubic meters.”
Gusty winds have carried the salt and minerals from the lake to the surrounding areas. Pictures posted on social media show the city of Urmia under a thick cloud of salt. Environmentalists warn that the storm could cause a significant natural disaster. It may even force the residents to flee the area.
Nader Qazipour, a Majlis (Iranian Parliament) deputy from Urmia, has questioned the decision by the civil aviation authorities not to cancel flights to and from the area. “Aseman Airline hasn’t learned from previous tragedies. They are playing with people’s lives,” Qazipour said.