At least one person has died and more than 5,000 needed treatment for breathing problems after a powerful sandstorm swept through Iraq.

Authorities have urged people to stay indoors, particularly those with asthma and other chronic diseases.

The storm originated in the Iraqi Western Desert on Wednesday night, the meteorological department said on Thursday.

The areas affected include Baghdad province, where some 2,000 cases of “suffocation” have been reported, according to the Health Ministry.

Hundreds of people were also rushed to hospitals with respiratory ailments in Anbar, a desert province in western Iraq, and the southwestern province of Najaf.

Saif al-Badr, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry, said all hospitals and medical facilities in Iraq are on alert, stressing that the number of cases was “not final.”