Australian airport clearing traveller backlog as wild winds ease

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House can be seen during a dust storm as it in descends upon the city of Sydney in Australia, November 22, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

Sydney Airport resumed normal operations on Saturday as strong winds that caused airline chaos a day earlier eased, a spokeswoman said.

Winds gusting up to 70 km per hour (44 mph) caused Sydney Airport to close one runway on Friday, leaving international and domestic travellers stranded in Australia’s most populous state.

Sydney Airport cancelled 76 flights after all but one runway was closed.

Weather bureau meteorologist Rosemary Barr told Reuters the winds gradually eased on Saturday to up to 30 kph after a low-pressure system in the Tasman sea weakened and moved east.

The winds had been part of a massive weather system over southeast Australia, that whipped up a 500 km (310 miles) dust storm on Thursday, which swept across the drought-parched interior to blanket Sydney.

Sydney Airport spokeswoman Cait Tynan said the airport was operating normally on Saturday with both runways operational.

Virgin and Qantas airlines put on additional flights to clear the backlog of travellers stranded by the weather.

Jetstar Airways said it had seven cancellations early on Saturday morning but was back on schedule by noon.

The easing winds also brought relief on Saturday after 21 fires were fanned by the strong gusts across New South Wales state on Friday.

A modified Boeing 737 capable of carrying 15,000 litres (3,960 gallons) of water or fire retardant helped to fight fires around the city of Newcastle, north of Sydney, on Friday.

More than 100 firefighters prepared containment lines in the area overnight, the Rural Fire Service said.