Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Red Dust Cloud Smothers Sydney

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Red Dust Cloud Smothers Sydney

Article excerpt

Byline: Frank Thorne in Sydney

SYDNEY residents awoke in alarm today as a haze of red dust shrouded the city in a crimson sunrise -- the result of a spectacular dust storm from the outback thousands of miles away.

The Harbour Bridge and Opera House landmarks were barely visible in the thick reddish-orange mist. The day turned to a blood-orange night as Sydneysiders struggled to get to work, some wearing breathing masks.

Emergency services and local radio stations were inundated with callers, some fearing that a massive bush fire was on their doorstep.

"It's just red, red, red as far as you can see," one caller told talkback Radio 2GB. "I've not seen anything like this before."

Popular beaches such as Bondi and Manly appeared more like Australia's desert Red Centre after the worst dust storm in more than 70 years. High winds had carried a cloud of thick dust at 60,000 tons an hour from the Northern Territory across New South Wales.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jane Golding said the fiery haze more than 800 kilometres long was the result of the sun hitting the blanket of millions of tons of dust.

"We had really strong winds in the inland areas of New South Wales and in South Australia for a sustained period," she said. "That's lifted a whole lot of dust because it's quite dry out there."

Officials estimated that 4,000 tonnes of topsoil fell on the city by dawn. Sydney airport was closed and up to 17 international flights had to be diverted or cancelled. Domestic flights were put on hold and bus and train services were thrown into chaos. Ferry services on the harbour were tied up until late in the morning, when winds of up to 100km an hour blew away the dust storm.

Motoring authorities warned drivers to exercise caution due to "significant dust over the city affecting visibility". …

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