A thick dust cloud from Syria has settled over parts of Cyprus and is expected to last another day or so.
According to the department of labour inspection (DIL), the average hourly concentration of dust particles in the Nicosia district on Monday was almost ten times the normal (547 μg/m³ whereas the maximum acceptable concentration is 50 μg/m³).
DIL official Christos Yiannaki told CyBC news that the concentration of dust particles even reached 3000 μg/m³ at around 6pm.
Yiannaki said that the phenomenon was sudden and caught everyone by surprise. “At around 6pm our instrument started showing increased amounts of dust in the atmosphere. There was no warning,” he said.
Department of Metereology official Stavros Vasiliadis said that the dust will linger for at least the next 12 hours.
“Things will get better after that. The dust will settle, starting tomorrow afternoon,” he said.
The unusual weather started at around 2.30pm on the east coast and gradually moved inland over the capital.
Visibility in some areas is low and drivers are advised to be extra careful.
Groups with respiratory problems are advised to stay indoors.
Five people were taken to the Nicosia General Hospital with repiratory issues due to the dust. All of them were released shortly after they were admitted.
Air traffic to and from the Paphos and Larnaca International Airports will go on as usual, said Hermes Airports spokesman Adamos Aspris, despite the high amount of dust in the atmosphere.
Aspris told the Cyprus News Agency that the operations centre in both airports was monitoring the situation closely.
“Up to this moment our flight schedule is performing without any problems. Hermes Operations centre is working closely with the competent authorities to deal with the situation,” he said.
Aspris pointed out that the Larnaca Airport was the most affected, with Paphos Airport reporting no problems.
The DIL said workers working in open spaces should protect themselves.