Dust storm sweeps southern Australia

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is seen on Wednesday in Sydney, Australia.
A massive dust storm swept through parts of southern Australia on Wednesday, bathing them in a reddish haze and prompting health officials to warn asthma patients to take cover.

Susan Paget marveled at the eerie red view from the balcony of her apartment in Manly, a suburb of Sydney, and said she took the day off work to avoid the dust storm mess. “It just feels dirty and rusty,” Paget told CNN. “It was totally bizarre to wake up around 5:30 a.m. and see such a red bizarre sky.” A video Paget submitted to CNN’s iReport showed thick haze, which made it difficult to see her neighbors’ homes. Health officials in Sydney warned residents to stay in indoors if possible, especially if they had asthma or heart and lung conditions. “Avoid spending too much time outdoors due to the high particle levels and hazardous air quality,” the New South Wales Department of Heath Web site said. The Ambulance Service of New South Wales said the dust storm had kept it busy with emergency calls.

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“We have already seen an increase in calls to people suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems,” the agency said in a statement. On Wednesday, the country’s meteorology bureau issued a severe weather warning of “widespread damaging winds” for Sydney and other areas. The wind had pushed the dust storm out of many areas in Sydney by Wednesday afternoon.