Sandstorm strikes Egypt, 1 dead
May. 02, 1997
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ A sandstorm that turned the sky from gray to red to eerie white engulfed much of Egypt on Friday, reducing visibility to zero in many places. At least one person was killed and nine injured by falling debris.
Ten other people were rushed to hospitals with breathing problems and 10 homes were destroyed when a palm tree fell on electricity wires, touching off fires.
The storm packed winds of 60 miles per hour, blinding drivers, blowing down trees and billboards, and briefly shutting Cairo's international airport.
It was the worst sandstorm in 30 years, according to Wahid Saudi of the Egyptian Meteorological Service.
Excursion boats on the Nile, heavy with picnickers on the Muslim Sabbath, pulled toward shore as the winds whipped up waves. Pedestrians sought shelter in doorways, office workers tried in vain to shutter their windows, and some Cairo residents lost power and telephone service.
Egyptian television interrupted its programming to warn people to take cover.
Cairo International Airport was closed for two hours and flights were diverted from the capital to the Red Sea coastal town of Hurghada or Aswan in the south. Hundreds of people were stranded at bus terminals in downtown Cairo when service was cut to a minimum.
In Giza, six miles southwest of Cairo, a man was killed by a falling tree. Eight people were injured in Beni Suef, 60 miles south of Cairo, when two minibuses crashed, sending one of the buses tumbling into the Nile.
Another man was hospitalized with cuts suffered when heavy winds blew down advertising billboards at Cairo airport. Several others received minor injuries, airport officials said.
A palm tree fell in Beni Suef struck electricity wires, setting off a fire that destroyed 10 homes.
The storm packed winds of 60 mph and was expected to engulf nearly all of Egypt, said Sherif Hamad, head of the Egyptian Meteorological Service.
Sandstorms are not unusual at this time of year, but ``we've never experienced such a powerful one,'' said Sherif Hamad of the Egyptian Meteorological Service. He predicted the weather would clear Saturday.
The storm came in from the Libyan desert at about midafternoon and was moving northeast, the meteorological service said. As it moved, the sky turned from clear blue to gray, then to glowing red, then to an eerie white because of the mass of sand suspended in the air.