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Greece: African dust creates otherworldly atmosphere

Athens and southern parts of the country were again enveloped in Saharan dust on Tuesday, with hues of yellow and orange creating an otherworldly atmosphere.

The heavy concentration of dust particles affected most people with respiratory conditions “through the degradation of air quality,” as pointed out by the Hellenic Pulmonary Society.

The frequency and intensity of Saharan dust phenomena in Greece can vary from year to year, from 7 to 20 episodes (average 13 episodes/year), depending on atmospheric conditions and the amount of dust transported from the Sahara.

The skies are predicted to clear on Wednesday as winds shift and move the dust, with temperatures dipping. On Tuesday, the daily high in parts of the southern island of Crete topped 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), more than 20 degrees C higher than what was registered in much of northern Greece.

The strong southerly winds over the past few days have also fanned unseasonal early wildfires in the country’s south.

The fire service said Tuesday evening that a total 25 wildfires broke out across the country in the past 24 hours. Three people were arrested on the Aegean Sea resort island of Paros on suspicion of accidentally starting a scrub blaze on Monday, it added. No significant damage or injuries were reported, and the fire was quickly contained.

Another blaze that broke out on Crete near a naval base was brought under control Tuesday.

Greece suffers devastating, and often deadly, forest blazes every summer, and last year the country recorded the European Union’s largest wildfire in more than two decades. Persistent drought combined with high spring temperatures has raised fears of a particularly challenging period for firefighters in the coming months.

 Source: Kathimerini/AP