Canary Islands suspend flights and carnival as Saharan sand storm rages | News | DW | 22.02.2020
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Canary Islands suspend flights and carnival as Saharan sand storm rages

Most flights in and out of the popular tourist destination have been suspended as red sand blanketed the Spanish archipelago. Heavy winds are expected to continue until Monday as a wildfire rages.

Spain suspended all flights in and out of Gran Canaria and all flights leaving Tenerife on Saturday after storms of red sand from Africa's Saharan desert struck the Canary Islands.

A spokesperson from Spanish airport operator AENA said at least 19 flights to Gran Canaria had been diverted, but did not list all affected airlines.

Saturday's air travel suspension has so far hit nearly 230 arrivals and departures, according to Spanish news agency EFE.

Spanish budget airline Vueling said some of its services had been affected by the storms and said passengers should verify the status of their flights before going to the airport.

The Sahara storms have severely reduced visibility as red sand swept across the islands. At Gran Canaria airport, visibility was reduced to less than 400 meters.

Read more:Opinion: We have to talk about the climate

Heavy winds and fire

The country's national weather service warned that winds of up to 120 kph (75 mph) were expected to tear across the Canaries until Monday. The islands of Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are likely to be the worst hit. The storms also contain a high concentration of lime and dust. 

The local government of the Canary Islands has also recommended people who suffer from chronic respiratory diseases not to go out in the streets and if they do, to have their medication on them. 

Woman covers her mouth as she walks through sand storm

The Sahara sand storm has severely reduced visibility

The City Councils of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria and Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast of Tenerife announced that the weekend's carnival events have also been canceled, while the Canary Islands Football Federation suspended all of Sunday's matches.

In addition to the adverse weather, southwest Gran Canaria is also struggling with a wildfire that has prompted authorities to evacuate residents in the municipality of Tasarte. 

The Canary Islands, located 60 miles (96.6 km) off the coast of Morocco in northwestern Africa, remain a popular tourist destination in February for Europeans.

mvb/bk (EFE, Reuters)

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