CAIRO – Egypt faced treacherous weather conditions Saturday as a sandstorm blanketed the north of the country and a magnitude-5.2 earthquake centered in the Sinai peninsula shook buildings more than 200 miles away in the capital, Cairo.
The epicenter of the quake was 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) southeast of the beachside town of Nuweiba in the Sinai, and about 75 kilometers (46 miles) south of Egypt's border with Israel, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Airports near Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh, along the Mediterranean coast, closed and diverted flights to Cairo due to poor visibility from the day's sandstorm, Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamel said in a statement. Visibility reached as low as 500 meters at the Burg al-Arab airport near Alexandria, he said.
Fierce winds whipped through the capital as many residents took cover from the sand by staying indoors. Others were seen braving the storm wearing surgical masks or covering their faces with clothing, as the wind sent rubbish and dust swirling.
At its peak, the sandstorm covered the capital in a thick orange cloud, dramatically reducing visibility.
In the Red Sea town of Dahab, 68 kilometers (42 miles) south of the epicenter of the quake in the Sinai peninsula, the tremor shook loose clouds of dust that enveloped nearby mountains, according to a witness. The quake appeared to startle local residents and tourists. It also shook the nearby Gaza strip. No serious damage was immediately reported from the earthquake in Egypt or in Gaza.
The Egyptian Ministry of Health said in a statement that there were no reports of deaths or injuries anywhere in Egypt due to the quake.
Israeli media reported that very mild aftershocks of the earthquake were felt in some places in the south of the country, but that no damage or injuries were caused.
The extreme weather conditions provided fodder for social media humor. Some wondered which of the 10 Biblical plagues would come next, while the popular Zamalek football club tweeted that it wasn't actually an earthquake--just preparation for their match tonight.