By Sam McNeil And Nour Youssef
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
AMMAN, Jordan _ A thick sandstorm cloaked parts of the Middle East on Wednesday, clouding skies and disrupting travel for the U.S. first lady, while flooding in Egypt killed 10 people.
Meanwhile, tropical storm Chapala continued to lash the arid and impoverished Yemen, submerging some streets in one eastern province and leaving only the roofs of cars visible.
Michelle Obama was set to fly to Jordan when an official travelling with her said the flight was delayed “due to a weather call.” The official, speaking on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement, gave no further details.
Obama was on a two-nation visit to the Middle East to promote a girls’ education initiative and was set to fly in from Qatar.
The storm engulfed the Jordanian capital of Amman where dust masks were going for just over $1 and the sun was a pale disk.
Shopkeeper Muhammed al-Ajouli wore a mask while beating sand off of one of his dresses for sale. “This has affected our work, nobody is going out in the street,” he said.
In Israel, travel was disrupted for thousands of people when domestic flights to the resort town of Eilat were cancelled because of the weather, according to Ofer Lefler, a spokesman for the Israel Airports Authority. The Airports Authority website showed incoming and outgoing flights to Eilat’s airport cancelled until the evening.
The haze shrouded parts of Israel, and the Israeli flag could be seen poking through above the Knesset in Jerusalem. Images in Israeli media showed a few beachgoers seen through the fog on Israel’s Mediterranean coast.
Last week, high winds and a downpour led to power outages for thousands and flooding in central Israeli cities.
Rain came down hard Wednesday in parts of Egypt. The Health Ministry said 10 people drowned and 16 were injured after rainwater poured into their homes in a village in the Nile Delta province of Beheira.
Beheira Police Maj. Gen. Ashraf Abdel-Qader said the downpour flooded major roads in the area, isolating the stricken village, and that several buildings were evacuated.
In the coastal city of Alexandria, heavy rainfall forced the closure of the ports and prevented many students from reaching their schools. Young men had to roll up their pants before crossing the streets as vacuum trucks tried to remove the water.
In Yemen, three aid flights from the Gulf nation of Oman landed in the badly-hit remote Yemeni island of Socotra, where Emirates Red Crescent workers have been handing out meals, blankets and tents to affected residents since Monday.
The U.N. says at least 40,000 people were displaced or temporarily evacuated from coastal areas of Yemen and that some 450 homes were damaged or destroyed.
Youssef reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed to this report.