A huge dust storm swirling over Europe from the Sahara desert made breathing difficult in large parts of Spain for a second day on Wednesday, and left a film of dirt on cars and buildings in France and in Portugal.
The European Union’s Copernicus atmosphere monitoring service said it was tracking the large cloud which has “degraded air quality in large parts of Spain, Portugal and France”.
As Spain bears the brunt of the storm, the dust has spread much further, dumping ochre-coloured drops on cars in Paris after mixing with the falling rain, and blanketing buildings in Lisbon of a fine powder.
Spain’s national meteorological service said the particles could reach as far north as the Netherlands and western Germany.
The area of Spain classified by its national air quality index as “extremely unfavorable” – its worst rating – has expanded since the storm began on Tuesday to include most parts of the south and center of the country. , including Madrid and other major cities such as Seville.
Authorities have recommended people wear face masks – still widely used due to the coronavirus pandemic – and avoid outdoor exercise, especially those with respiratory illnesses.
The sky over Madrid was tinted a dirty gray, with reduced visibility for much of the country.
Municipal cleaners swept dust from city streets and photos on social media included images of red-tinged snow on a mountain range near Madrid.
In southern Spain, dust mixed with rain to produce mud.
Ruben del Campo, spokesman for Spain’s meteorological service, said the greatest amounts of airborne dust will accumulate in southeastern and central regions on Wednesday afternoon.
“The air will then start to clear gradually, although floating dust will reach the Canary Islands (in the Atlantic Ocean) over the weekend,” he said.
To the relief of farmers, the storm front that brought in the African dust is also expected to bring more rain over the next few days to Spain’s parched fields and descending reservoirs.