Sandstorm causes disruption on Spain’s Canary Islands

Airports on Spain's Canary Islands reopened on Monday although service was disrupted after a sandstorm hit the archipelago, airport authorities said.

Sandstorm causes disruption on Spain's Canary Islands
A satellite image shows the sandstorm blasting the Canary Islands from the east. Photo: NASA

All eight airports on Spain's Canary Islands reopened on Monday a day after a sandstorm shrouded the archipelago, forcing their closure, the transport ministry said.

“The overnight improvement in the weather has allowed the resumption of air traffic in all airports in the Canary Islands,” the ministry tweeted.   

ENAIRE, the public body that manages Spanish airspace, said flights had resumed after “an improvement in the haze”.

Air travel was first disrupted on the archipelago on Saturday after strong winds carrying red sand from the Sahara shrouded the tourist hotspot, forcing flights to and from the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife to be cancelled or diverted.

Holidaymakers faced cancellations and delays over the weekend. Photo AFP

The airports were reopened on Monday morning Spanish airport operator AENA said, but warned that they were operating with “reduced capacity”. Travellers were advised to check the status of the flight with the airline.



On sunday AENA was forced to close all eight airports in the Canaries — the three in Gran Canaria and Tenerife as well as five others.

“Visibility is very low,” a spokeswoman for the airport operator said.

AENA said flights were being diverted to mainland Spain as well as to Cape Verde, Morocco, Mauritania and Portugal.

In a tweet, Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos thanked these countries for their “solidarity” and said air transport professionals “do not remember such adverse weather for air transport in the Canary Islands.”

The regional government declared a state of alert on Saturday and advised people to keep doors and windows closed, avoid non-essential car travel and stay away from coastal areas.

Spain's national weather service warned that winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) were set to buffet the Canaries until Monday.

Strong winds also prevented water-dropping aircraft from putting out fires near Tasarte village in southwest Gran Canaria, which have scorched around 300 hectares of land and forced 500 people to be evacuated, as well as in the neighbouring island of Tenerife.

About 1,000 locals and tourists were evacuated in Tenerife as a precaution because of the risk from blazes which broke out near built-up areas in six municipalities on the north of the island amid scorching temperatures, said the head of the local government of Tenerife, Pedro Marin.

“We are facing a completely unusual situation. It is the first time that so many fires have broken out in so many municipalities at the same time, and in different places,” he told a news conference.

Located off the coast of Morocco, the Canary Islands are a popular tourist destination for northern Europeans seeking winter sunshine.

The archipelago received 13.1 million foreign visitors last year, according to national statistics institute INE figures, making it Spain's third most visited region.

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Spain urges holidaymakers to head home early due to snow and strong wind warnings

Nine Spanish regions were put on alert on Tuesday for heavy snow, rain and strong winds, with the country's traffic authorities calling for people taking holidays this long weekend to head home early to avoid the worst of the bad weather.

Spain urges holidaymakers to head home early due to snow and strong wind warnings
Vehicles stuck in traffic due to a heavy snowfall near Burgos, northern Spain, in March 2021. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

Aragón, Castilla y León, Catalonia, Navarra and the Basque Country will be on orange alert from Tuesday for snow storms, while Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja and La Comunidad Valenciana are on the less-severe yellow alert, Spain’s State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) announced.

A slight increase in temperatures will increase the risk of avalanches in the Pyrenees and the central Cantabrian mountain range.

Some roads in the north of the country are already being affected by snow and are being restricted to some traffic such as trucks and heavy vehicles.

Spain’s traffic authority (DGT) called on residents in the northern half of the country to return early from the puente (long weekend) marked by the public holidays of December 6 and 8, ahead of heavy snow forecast for Wednesday.

Of the 108 main roads affected by the heavy snow in Spain, almost half of them are in the northeastern region Aragón.

Aragón, Catalonia and Navarra are at risk of avalanches, according to data from Aemet, while a storm warning has been issued for the coastal areas of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Catalonia and the Basque country.

Heavy rainfall is expected in Galicia, extending to Cantabria and the western Pyrenees.