Australian airport clearing traveler backlog as wild winds ease

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House seen during a dust storm in Australia
SYDNEY- 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 travelers stranded in Australia’s most populous state.

Sydney Airport canceled 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.

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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 travelers 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.

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A modified Boeing 737 capable of carrying 15,000 liters (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.

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AirportAustralian airporttraveler backlogRosemary BarrWeather bureau meteorologistwinds