Sandstorm hits Israel, sends sea waves tearing into Beirut

AP News
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Posted: Feb 11, 2015 6:39 AM
Sandstorm hits Israel, sends sea waves tearing into Beirut

A Mideast sandstorm roared into Israel and Lebanon on Wednesday, causing the worst Israeli air pollution in years and sending powerful waves tearing into Beirut's famed corniche along the Mediterranean Sea.

The sandstorm, made up of accumulated dust carried from the far reaches of the Sahara Desert in North Africa, also engulfed Cairo for a second day. High winds lashed those on the streets, causing some to walk backward to avoid getting the grit in their faces.

Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry said air pollution levels were the country's worst in five years and the storm would last into Wednesday night. Israeli airports spokeswoman Liza Dvir said flights to and from the Red Sea resort city of Eilat temporarily were grounded due to the weather, though planes still flew through the country's main international hub, Ben Gurion Airport outside of Tel Aviv.

Israeli police said more patrols would be on hand in case of emergencies brought on by the weather.

In Beirut, strong waves broke fences, tiles and tore away part of its corniche overlooking the Mediterranean. The storm also brought heavy winds, rain and snow to the mountains. Lebanese weather forecasters said the wind reached speeds of 100 kilometers per hour (60 mph).

On Tuesday, the strong sandstorm first reached Egypt, temporarily closing Cairo International Airport to incoming flights. The weather front also caused strong waves to crash into the coast and saw Egypt close two of its seaports.

The sandstorm hit Egypt after unusually warm and sunny weather for a February day. Such sandstorms are common in Egypt this time of year.