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NI holidaymaker caught up in sandstorm as thousands left stranded on Canary Islands

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Stephen Hylands who is in Gran Canaria with partner Alex Atuan

Stephen Hylands who is in Gran Canaria with partner Alex Atuan

Stephen Hylands

Stephen Hylands

Stephen Hylands who is in Gran Canaria with partner Alex Atuan

A holidaymaker from Northern Ireland has described the "spooky" conditions caused by a major sandstorm in the Canary Islands that has left thousands stranded.

Stephen Hylands (56) from Holywood, Co Down arrived on Gran Canaria with his partner Alex Atuan last Thursday.

Staying in Maspalomas on the southern coast, they were forced to wear face masks and the inside of their apartment was left covered in orange dust by the sandstorm from the Sahara which blanketed the island.

The Spanish archipelago's airport reopened yesterday after being closed over the weekend, but many flights were still cancelled or delayed.

"Sunday was really the big day, the photos really don't do it justice. It was a very spooky atmosphere," Mr Hylands told the Belfast Telegraph yesterday.

"The entire sky was just orange, it was really strange. The streets were empty and there was no traffic.

"We ended up buying some face masks because there was so much dust that you could touch it, taste it and feel it."

He continued: "Everything was just blanketed in orange dust, even the inside of our apartment even though we had the windows and doors closed."

Not due to fly back until this Thursday, Mr Hylands said it's likely they will avoid the travel chaos many others endured.

Yesterday a spokesman for Jet2.com said: "Like all airlines operating to the Canary Islands, the adverse and changeable conditions affecting the whole area since the weekend have resulted in flights experiencing delays or having to be diverted to other airports.

"We would like to apologise to all affected customers for any inconvenience caused by these extraordinary circumstances, which are completely beyond our control.

"Our teams are working tirelessly to look after customers and to get everyone to their intended destination as soon as possible."

A spokeswoman for travel firm Tui added it was expected most of their customers would return home yesterday.

Belfast Telegraph