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Much Of Egypt Disappears In Sandstorm

A sandstorm that turned the sky from gray to red to eerie white engulfed much of Egypt on Friday, reducing visibility to zero in many places and killing at least eight people.

Windblown debris and traffic accidents caused by the storm injured at least nine others, while 10 people were rushed to hospitals with breathing problems.

The storm packed winds of 60 mph, blinding drivers, blowing down trees and billboards, and briefly shutting Cairo’s international airport.

It was the worst sandstorm in 30 years, according to Wahid Saudi of the Egyptian Meteorological Service.

Officials said 10 homes were destroyed in Beni Suef, 60 miles south of Cairo, when a palm tree fell on electricity wires, touching off fires.

Excursion boats on the Nile, heavy with picnickers on the Muslim Sabbath, pulled toward shore as the winds whipped up waves. Pedestrians sought shelter in doorways, office workers tried in vain to shutter their windows, and some Cairo residents lost power and telephone service.

Egyptian television interrupted its programming to warn people to take cover.

Cairo International Airport was closed for two hours and flights were diverted from the capital to the Red Sea coastal town of Hurghada or Aswan in the south. Hundreds of people were stranded at bus terminals in downtown Cairo when service was cut to a minimum.

Eight people were killed by falling trees, electricity pylons, walls and other heavy objects, the Middle East News Agency said.