'Like living on Mars': Canary Islands hit by massive sandstorm

Travellers were left stranded as flights were cancelled on the popular tourist islands

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The Canary Islands are typically a tranquil haven for European holidaymakers seeking some warm sunshine and sand during the cold winter months.

But thousands of travellers got rather more sand than they bargained for this weekend as a huge sandstorm blew in from the Sahara.

Tenerife and Gran Canaria were shrouded in orange dust, causing travel disruption that left holidaymakers stranded on the islands off the coast of north-west Africa.

A Nasa satellite image showed the sand being carried east from the Sahara across the Atlantic Ocean to the popular holiday resorts.

Airport operator Aena confirmed on Sunday that it diverted all incoming flights amid the poor visibility, but some outbound flights from Fuerteventura and Lanzarote were operating.

Many tourists took to social media to say they were stranded and pictures showed huge queues forming at airports as people waited for flights to resume. Some called the weather phenomenon "apocalyptic", while others said it was "like living on Mars".

The regional government declared a state of alert on Saturday and advised people to keep doors and windows closed, avoid non-essential car travel and stay away from coastal areas.

Spain's national weather service warned winds of up to 120 kilometres per hour would continue to affect the islands until Monday.