Cyprus Mail

Dust shows signs of abating, but levels still high (Update 2)

By Andria Kades

Despite some improvement, dust levels remained high on Wednesday across the island, the met office said, as the opening of public schools, scheduled for Thursday, was postponed by one day.

The Cyprus Institute said the dust cloud was seriously worrying with the readings in the dust’s diameter at three milligrammes per cubic metre in Nicosia. “This is lower than the 12 mg/ cubic metres in the dust storm that plagued Beijing and China on March 20 in 2002, something that is of serious concern.”

Scientists from Israel are closely monitoring the situation, as it seems the cloud is heading in their direction.

The situation was made worse by the high temperatures, which were expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius, six degrees above normal.

Substantial improvement is expected by Thursday with the dust gradually going back to normal levels by Sunday.

Temperatures on Sunday were expected to reach between 36C and 37C.

Met officer Panayiotis Michail said there has been a substantial reduction in the dust levels, which however, were still much higher than the acceptable limits.

By 3pm, the dust in Nicosia reached 734 microgrammes per cubic metre while Limassol saw 688. Larnaca and Paphos recorded 1095 and 112 microgrammes respectively. The maximum acceptable limit is 50 microgrammes per cubic metre.

Michail said the dust will be denser in some areas.

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Thick dust was detected around 10 to 20 kilometres off the island’s east coast and the slightest wind could affect the eastern and southern coastal areas, he said.

The met office expected a light north-westerly wind in the afternoon that will start to clear the dust.

The labour inspection department advised the public, especially vulnerable groups, to avoid going outside until the dust cleared.

The situation forced the education ministry to push back the first day of school.

“Pupils will go to school on Friday instead of Thursday,” Education Minister Costas Kadis said. The postponement concerns secondary schools. Primary schools were scheduled to open on Monday.

The minister said it looked like there would not be any problem by Friday but authorities will assess the situation again on Thursday to see if there were any changes.

The Green Party said it received complaints from people who work outside that they were not provided with protective goggles and masks and called on the labour ministry to order a chemical test on the dust to see if it contained warfare chemicals from Syria such as depleted uranium.

No problems have been reported at the Republic’s two airports after Tuesday’s disruption of the flight schedule due to poor visibility.

“There are no diversions or cancellations,” airports operator Hermes spokesman Adamos Aspris said. “The flight schedule at Larnaca and Papahos is going smoothly.”

Visibility at Paphos airport was two kilometres while Larnaca ranged between one and 1.3 kilometres, he said.

“Visibility remains low but not so low as to create problems.”







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