A major sandstorm has whipped into the Mideast's commercial hub of Dubai and other Gulf cities, reducing visibility, forcing flight diversions and making breathing outside more difficult.

Dubai's airport operator said Thursday that four flights bound for Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest hub for international air traffic, were diverted to nearby airports. Eight other flights were diverted to the alternate Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central from other regional airports.

In Abu Dhabi, police say a 24-year-old was airlifted to the hospital after being seriously injured in a traffic accident caused by the reduced visibility.

The United Arab Emirates' National Center of Meteorology and Seismology warned of reduced visibility due to blowing dust of as little as 500 meters (yards).