Massive dust storm in Kathmandu; many injured, airport shut

Kathmandu, March 28 (IANS) A massive dust storm swept through the Kathmandu Valley on Monday, due to which at least half a dozen people were injured, flights were held up for an hour and people forced to stop their vehicles right in the middle of roads.

Gusts of up to 71 km per hour blew from the western side, the meteorology department said.

The Tribhuvan International Airport was shut down for an hour due to the dust storm. Airport authorities later started cleaning up the runway after dust piled up.

Commuters were forced to stop their vehicles on the road. Thousands of private and public transport were stranded in the streets due to the dust storm.

People on the roads took shelters at various spots to avoid the dust.

Three people were injured in the heart of Kathmandu after a tree fell on them due to the gusty wind.

One person was injured in Koteshwor area, and three in other parts of the city, police said.

Planes that were scheduled to land at Tribhuvan airport — Jet Airways 9W260 and Etihad flight EY290 — were diverted due to poor visibility.

The Jet flight was put on hold in Simara near the Nepal-India border and the Etihad plane was put on hold at Birgunj, another bordering city.

Airport spokesperson Bhola Guaragain confirmed that several domestic and some international flights were diverted.

For the past one week, Kathmandu and many other parts of the country have been shrouded in a blanket of haze, with increased concentration of particulate matter.

Barun Poudel, an official at the meteorology department, said the situation was unlikely to improve anytime soon. He said the storm was likely to shift to the eastern part of the country.

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