Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Travelers are flying again to and from the Canary Islands after a major sandstorm from the Sahara Desert blew through the tourist destination off the northwest African coast over the weekend.
AENA, Spain's airport authority, said Monday all eight airports serving the islands were operating again at reduced capacity after the thick sandstorm made air travel hazardous for days. More than 800 flights were affected by the sandstorm and AENA had advised travelers to check their flights with the airlines.
Schools were closed Monday after what was called a "nightmare weekend" because of the storm, regional President Angel Victor Torres said.
"We've been dealing with four different phenomena at the same time - rough seas, winds, fires and the [sandstorm], which has had a huge effect on the day-to-day life in the Canaries," he said.
The weather phenomena, called "la calima," forced the island to hunker down as large amounts of sand blew from the Western Sahara across the Atlantic Ocean. Officials called off all open-air sporting and recreational events and started declaring sandstorm alerts Saturday.
"Industry professionals cannot remember such adverse meteorological conditions for air travel in the Canary Islands," Spanish Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos said Sunday.
The Canary Islands have been ruled by Spain since the 15th century and tourists have visited its main islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura for vacation for decades. Tenerife, in fact, was the site of the deadliest aviation accident in history. Nearly 600 people, mostly tourists, were killed in the collision of two Boeing 747s in March 1977 at the island's Los Rodeos Airport.