Over 800 flights flying to and from the Canary Islands were affected by the sandstorm, or “calima.”
Rabat – The Spanish minister of transport, Jose Luis Abalos, has thanked Morocco for helping to “minimize the impact” of disrupted flights to the Canary Islands due to a sandstorm.
A sandstorm coming from the Sahara, known locally as a “calima,” had brought such strong winds and dust to the islands off Morocco’s coast that 822 flights were affected by 11 p.m. local time Sunday, February 23.
Aena, a company that operates airports in Spain, alerted travelers to check on the status of their flights.
Airports diverted flights towards mainland Spain and neighboring countries, including Morocco.
Abalos thanked the countries for their efforts, saying, “Given the situation in the airspace of the Canary Islands due to the lack of visibility by #calima, I would like to thank the solidarity efforts made by neighboring countries (Morocco, Portugal, Mauritania and Cape Verde) and Eurocontrol to minimize the impact.”
Ante la situación que hay en el espacio aéreo de las Islas Canarias por la falta de visibilidad por #calima, quiero agradecer el esfuerzo solidario que están haciendo los países vecinos (Marruecos, Portugal, Mauritania y Cabo Verde) y Eurocontrol para minimizar el impacto. https://t.co/szDlAq9aMI
— José Luis Ábalos (@abalosmeco) February 23, 2020
The Canaries’ eight airports had to close on Sunday due to lack of visibility.
The high winds, heat, and restricted visibility of the calima over the weekend in the Canary Islands were the worst weather for flights that transport professionals had ever seen, Abalos said.
A forest fire in Gran Canaria forced residents to shelter on the beach Sunday evening for safety before authorities evacuated them.
Although residents posted pictures to Twitter of clearer skies Monday morning, the Ministry of Education had already closed schools. Over the weekend, the government also advised citizens to stay home.
Monday morning, Aena tweeted that flights could resume but warned some flights might still be affected. “All airports are able to operate with reduced capacity,” the company said.
The adverse weather prompted Canarian President Angel Victor Torres to convene a “crisis cabinet” with the government delegate on the islands, Anselmo Pestana, according to Spanish outlet Diario de Leon.