Page last updated at 07:11 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 08:11 UK

Huge clean-up after Sydney storm

Cleaners wipe dust off seats at the ANZ stadium following the storm that swept through Sydney, 24 Sept
Sydneysiders woke up to a huge clean-up task

Australia has been clearing up after its worst dust storm in seven decades, which smothered Sydney and brought transport to a standstill.

Sydney's residents have spent the day cleaning their streets, homes and cars.

Wednesday's storm dumped millions of tonnes of dust over New South Wales before heading north to Queensland.

The skies are now clear, but industry groups are still counting the cost of wasted working hours, the loss of agricultural soil and flight delays.

Seen from space

The storm of red dust which blew into Sydney came from the desert outback; thousands of tons of topsoil from the arid and drought-stricken centre of the country were sucked up by powerful winds and blown eastwards.

Dust from arid central Australia is swept across New South Wales.

The haze was so extensive it could be seen from space, appearing as a huge brown smudge in satellite photographs of Australia.

Visibility in Sydney was so bad that flights were diverted and harbour ferry traffic disrupted. Landmarks such as the Opera House were obscured, and many residents took to wearing masks.

Emergency services reported a surge in calls from people with breathing problems.

Skies over eastern Australia were mostly clear on Thursday, and the country's largest airport aimed to resume normal flight schedules.

The authorities in New South Wales and Queensland have lifted water restrictions - imposed because of the drought - so residents can clean their homes and vehicles.

Sydney, Australia, 23 Sep 09
Sydney turned orange in Wednesday's desert storm

Weather bureau official Mike De Salis told reporters that there were likely to be more dusty days in the coming weeks, but nothing on the scale of Wednesday's storm.

Dust storms are common in the arid "red centre" of Australia, but they rarely reach the populated coastal regions.

Thursday morning's newspapers were full of coverage of the unusual event.

The Sydney Morning Herald called it "The day the country blew into town," while the headline in the Daily Telegraph was "Doomsday".

"It wasn't, as the saying goes, a good laundry day," an editorial in the Telegraph added.

Infographic on spread of dust storm

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