Greece: Athens covered with orange Sahara dust haze

An intense orange haze has enveloped Athens, creating a surreal landscape as vast clouds of Sahara Desert dust have drifted over the city. This severe dust event is among the worst to strike Greece since 2018, officials have reported. The phenomenon, not limited to Greece alone, had previously affected regions as far as Switzerland and southern France during late March and early April.

The dust has significantly impacted air quality across various parts of Greece, leading to a dramatic scene on Wednesday morning where the iconic Acropolis in Athens was shrouded entirely by the dust. The dust cloud has also spread as far north as Thessaloniki, impacting visibility and air conditions throughout the country.

Greek authorities have advised those with respiratory issues to exercise caution by staying indoors, wearing protective masks, and refraining from physical activity outdoors until conditions improve. This advisory comes as the Sahara is known to release between 60 to 200 million tonnes of mineral dust annually. While most of this dust settles quickly, some finer particles can travel vast distances, occasionally reaching as far as Europe.

The situation is further exacerbated in southern Greece by a combination of the dust clouds and unusually high temperatures, creating a stifling atmosphere. Meteorologist Kostas Lagouvardos remarked that the view from one weather station resembled the surface of Mars, highlighting the severity of the current conditions.

Amid these challenging environmental conditions, the Greek fire service reported battling 25 wildfires over the past 24 hours, including one near a naval base on the island of Crete. This particular fire, which coincided with local temperatures exceeding 30°C (86°F), prompted evacuations of homes and a kindergarten as a precautionary measure. The dust and heat have combined to form a critical situation, stressing the need for heightened vigilance and safety measures during this unusually harsh environmental episode.

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