Dust Storm Blocks Travel into Sydney

International flights into Sydney have been diverted following an outback dust storm that has shrouded much of eastern Australia in a dramatic red glow.

Ferries from the harbor have also been suspended and motorists warned to take special precautions due to a dramatic drop in visibility.

The storm started in the mining town of Broken Hill on Tuesday before sweeping east. It was caused by a major cold front whipping up the dust from the drought-stricken hinterland.

The gale force winds— measuring in excess of 60mph— also fanned bush fires in the state. By noon on Wednesday, the storm, carrying an estimated 5 million tons of dust, had spread to the southern part of  Queensland.

The dust storms stripped valuable topsoil from farmlands. At one point, up to 75,000 tons of dust per hour was blown across Sydney and dumped in the Pacific Ocean.

Health authorities, meanwhile, have urged people with asthma or breathing difficulties to stay indoors. The official air quality index for New South Wales recorded pollutant levels as high as 4,164 in Sydney. A level above 200 is considered hazardous.