Greece and Libya hit with orange sky in Sahara desert sandstorm

Greece and Libya hit with orange sky in Sahara desert sandstorm
Greece and Libya were hit with major storms which carried sand from the Sahara desert and blanketed cities in a yellow-orange haze
3 min read
Dust from the desert of Sahara covers the city in orange haze in Athens [GETTY]

Skies over southern Greece turned an orange hue on Tuesday as dust clouds blown across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa engulfed the Acropolis and other Athens landmarks.

Strong southerly winds carried the dust from the Sahara Desert, giving the atmosphere of the Greek capital a Martian-like filter in the last hours of daylight.

The skies are predicted to clear on Wednesday as winds shift and move the dust, with temperatures dipping. On Tuesday, the daily high in parts of the southern island of Crete topped 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), more than 20 degrees C higher than what was registered in much of northern Greece.

The strong southerly winds over the past few days have also fanned unseasonal early wildfires in the country's south.

The fire service said Tuesday evening that a total 25 wildfires broke out across the country in the past 24 hours. Three people were arrested on the Aegean Sea resort island of Paros on suspicion of accidentally starting a scrub blaze on Monday, it added. No significant damage or injuries were reported, and the fire was quickly contained.

Another blaze that broke out on Crete near a naval base was brought under control Tuesday.

Greece suffers devastating, and often deadly, forest blazes every summer , and last year the country recorded the European Union's largest wildfire in more than two decades. Persistent drought combined with high spring temperatures has raised fears of a particularly challenging period for firefighters in the coming months .

Meanwhile in Libya, a powerful sandstorm blew across the eastern part of the country on Monday, disrupting air traffic and shutting down airports, public administration and schools in the region, Libyan media reported.

Traffic at airports in Benghazi and Tobruk was suspended until further notice, local media said, showing images of runways buried in sand.

"All flights to and from the Benina International Airport (in Benghazi) have been postponed due to poor visibility and poor weather conditions," Saleh al-Amrouni, the airport's manager, told al-Masar TV channel.

Authorities in the east announced as early as Sunday that Monday and Tuesday would be "public holidays" owing "to bad weather conditions", national press agency Lana News reported.

Among the areas where a state of alert has been declared is Derna, where more than 4,300 people died and over 8,000 disappeared last September when a gigantic flood swept through the city following the collapse of two dams.

Authorities have also called on law enforcement to limit road traffic and movement in areas where the sandstorm has caused poor visibility.

In Tobruk, Al Bayda and Ajdabiya people were reportedly forced to stay at home as the skies turned yellow.