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China: Sandstorms blanket Beijing as air pollution spikes

March 22, 2023

Beijing and several other provinces are being affected by thick, dense sandstorms that are severely affecting visibility. Deforestation has escalated already rampant air pollution in the Chinese capital.

People wearing face masks walk along a street in the central business district in Beijing, Wednesday, March 22, 2023
The dust and sand storm sent air quality indices soaring in China's capital on Wednesday morning.Image: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo/picture alliance

Air pollution escalated in Beijing on Wednesday as the city was hit by a huge sandstorm, as dust also engulfed other parts of the country in an orange haze.

In the north and northwest areas of China, high winds and dust turned the sky a glaring tangerine, reducing visibility to less than few hundred meters in some areas.

According to the forecasters, low visibility will be common with drivers cautioned against speeding under the conditions.

The sandstorms will gradually move south and then weaken said the forecasters.

Authorities noted that the pollution was largely being caused by airborne particles called PM10, which are small enough to be inhaled and can aggravate a range of health issues including respiratory issues.

Yellow warning issued.

The country has a four-tier, color-coded weather warning system with red representing the most severe warning, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

The weather service on Wednesday issued a yellow warning for dust across the north and northwest regions for 24 hours.

Beijing the capital was also issued a yellow sandstorm warning. Over the past days, the city has experienced sand and dust storms increasing pollution levels drastically.

Cars and pedestrians navigate along a street shrouded in dust and haze in Beijing
A massive sand and dust storm has engulfed Beijing.Image: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo/picture alliance

Hazardous storms.

On Wednesday, Beijing recorded an air quality index of 500, putting the pollution level at 6, which is considered very hazardous to human health. This is according to the Beijing Ecological Environment Monitoring Center.

Some unofficial readings recorded the index twice that of the official reading.

People in affected areas were advised to "do a good job of protecting against wind and sand, and close doors and windows in a timely manner," the weather service said, calling on people to wear masks while outdoors.

According to the weather service, children, the elderly and people with respiratory allergies and other conditions should "limit how much they go out."

Beijing regularly faces dust storms in March and April due to its proximity to the Gobi desert as well as deforestation throughout northern China.

In spring changes in wind flow carry loose particles across the largely arid region creating the sand and dust storm.

The current storm is "the most extensive of the year so far," according to the national weather service.

Huge sandstorm covers Chinese city

dmn/es (AFP,Reuters)


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