February 22, 2020 / 8:12 PM / 3 months ago

Canaries flights suspended as Saharan sand blankets islands

A woman covers her mouth during a sandstorm blown over from North Africa known as "calima" at Las Palmas Airport, Canary Islands, Gran Canaria, Spain February 22, 2020. REUTERS/Borja Suarez

GRAN CANARIA, Spain (Reuters) - Spain’s airport operator AENA suspended all flights in and out of Gran Canaria and all flights leaving Tenerife on Saturday evening after a storm carrying clouds of red sand from the Sahara hit the Canaries and severely reduced visibility.

At least 19 flights to Gran Canaria were diverted, a spokeswoman for AENA said. She did not specify which airlines had been affected.

Budget carrier Vueling, a subsidiary of IAG, said some of its services had been hit and advised passengers to check the status of their flights before heading to the airport.

Spain’s national weather service warned that winds of up to 120 kph (75 mph) are set to buffet the Canaries until Monday. Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are likely to be the worst hit, the weather service said.

The regional government declared a state of alert and advised people to keep doors and windows closed across the archipelago, while authorities in Lanzarote’s capital Arrecife, canceled all outdoor activities, including some carnival celebrations.

Located around 60 miles off the coast of Morocco, the Canaries are a popular tourist destination for northern Europeans in search of winter sun.

Reporting by Nathan Allen in Madrid and Borja Suarez in Gran Canaria; editing by James Drummond

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