A large part of the Caribbean, from Cuba to Mexico via Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles, is suffering this week from the effects of a cloud of Saharan dust, a phenomenon that, although it occurs regularly, this year has arrived with an intensity not seen in some of these countries in half a century, causing “dangerous” levels of air quality.

Experts say that this very dry, dust-laden mass of hot air that forms over the Sahara desert, mainly in the summer, and moves annually towards the Atlantic Ocean, “can cover an area equivalent to that of the United States and extend vertically between 1,500 and 6,000 meters in altitude.

Although it is a recurring phenomenon, Puerto Rico woke up Monday to a cloud with an intensity not seen for 50 years, which led authorities to classify the air quality on Tuesday as “dangerous”.

On that day, the Air Quality Index reflected a level of 305, when the highest previously reported was in 2018, when the contaminant registered an index of 154 that is classified as unhealthy. All people with respiratory problems, children and the elderly should avoid all physical activities in the open air.

The layer of dust was so dense that it affected visibility in many parts of the island, and in some areas the density was such that the sun looked diffuse, while in the capital the cloud caused by the dust was palpable, which is why experts recommended, in addition to the mask needed for the coronavirus crisis, wearing glasses.


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