Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Australia's famed Sydney Harbour bridge, can barely be seen today as the worst dust storm in 70 years blanketed the heavily populated east coast on Wednesday.
The dust storm nearly closed the country's largest airport and left millions of people coughing and sputtering in the streets.
No one was hurt as a result of this phenomenon that swept in overnight, bringing an eerie orange dawn to Sydney.
However ambulance services reported a spike in emergency calls from people with breathing difficulties, and drivers had been warned to take it easy on the roads.
Dust clouds blowing east from Australia's dry interior — parched even further by the worst drought on record — covered dozens of towns and cities in two states as strong winds snatched up tons of topsoil, threw it high into the sky and carried it hundreds of miles away.
International flights were diverted from Sydney to other cities — three from New Zealand were turned around altogether — and domestic schedules were thrown into chaos as operations at Sydney Airport were curtailed by unsafe visibility levels.
Passenger ferries on the city's famous harbor were also stopped for several hours for safety reasons.
The dust over Sydney had largely cleared by midafternoon, though national carrier Qantas said severe delays would last all day because of diverted and late-running flights.