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Sandstorm closes Cairo airport, chokes traffic in Egyptian capital

Strong desert winds whipped up a severe sandstorm that engulfed Cairo and other parts of Egypt on Tuesday, forcing the closure of Cairo's International Airport for several hours due to poor visibility.

Cairo's airport authorities announced at 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) that visibility was reduced to 100 meters (110 yards), leading to cancellations of more than 15 departures, mostly to Europe. All incoming flights were diverted to airports in the Red Sea resort towns of Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheik.

Aviation officials said they expected the situation to ease around 3 p.m., but the storm slightly abated 30 minutes ahead of schedule, allowing for landing and departure flights to resume, according to airport authorities.

Meanwhile, police said they had initial reports of car accidents caused by the bad weather and that some elderly people with breathing problems were rushed to hospitals. A blanket of orange dust hung in the air in Cairo, where it was impossible to see across the Nile River.

Each spring, Egypt is hit by sand storms, known as the khamaseen, or the 50-day wind, that deposit a layer of fine sand on buildings and cars.

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