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Sandstorm strands thousands on Canary Islands

Regional president of Spanish territory and tourist destination calls it the worst sandstorm in 40 years

Alyssa McMurtry   | 24.02.2020
Sandstorm strands thousands on Canary Islands

OVIEDO, Spain

Strong winds, blinding sandstorms, and wildfires throughout the Canary Islands have left thousands of tourists stranded at the popular holiday destination, according to local media and officials.

The freak weather situation has affected over 800 flights and between 12,000 and 14,000 passengers this weekend, and the region remains on alert.

Since Friday, high winds have been blowing sand from the Sahara Desert to the islands, a Spanish territory off the coast of northwestern Africa, and gusts are expected to continue until Monday evening.

Most airports have resumed operations but they are still recovering from the cancellations of hundreds of flights over the weekend. Local media reported chaotic scenes in which around 4,000 people had to spend Sunday night sleeping at the airport in Gran Canaria.

“It’s was a nightmare of a weekend,” Angel Víctor Torres, the islands’ president, told Spanish broadcaster TVE on Monday. “We had to deal with four phenomena at once: turbulent seas, wind, wildfires, and the sandstorm.”

He said it was the worst sandstorm the islands have dealt with in four decades.

Firefighters are still working to control the fires, which broke out on the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

Classes for students and some events of the famous Canary Island Carnival have also been canceled for Monday, and authorities are telling people to stay indoors when possible.

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