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Senin, 15 Maret 2021

Beijing choked by worst dust storm in decade - ABC News

The Chinese capital Beijing has been shrouded in thick brown dust due to heavy winds blowing in from the Gobi Desert and parts of north-western China and creating what the weather bureau has called the biggest sandstorm in a decade.

Skyscrapers in the centre of Beijing appeared to drop from sight amid the dust and sand.

Traffic was snarled and more than 400 flights out of the capital's two main airports were cancelled before midday (local time).

The China Meteorological Administration announced a yellow alert, saying sandstorms had spread from Inner Mongolia into the provinces of Gansu, Shanxi and Hebei, which surrounds Beijing.

"It looks like the end of the world," said Beijing resident Flora Zou, 25, who works in the fashion sector.

"In this kind of weather I really, really don't want to be outside."

A woman stands in front of a modern building covered in smog in Beijing
Chinese authorities have sought to reduce smog in Beijing.(

AP: Andy Wong

)

Air pollution reaches dangerous levels

The National Meteorological Centre forecasted the sand and dust would affect 12 provinces and regions from Xinjiang in the far north-west to Heilongjiang in the north-east and the eastern coastal port city of Tianjin.

"This is the most intense sandstorm weather our country has seen in 10 years, as well as it covering the broadest area," the centre said in a post on its website.

A woman rides a bike down a street covered in yellow smog
The sandstorm brought a tinted haze to Beijing's skies and sent air quality indices soaring.(

Reuters: Thomas Peter

)

Neighbouring Mongolia was also hit by heavy sandstorms, with at least 341 people reported missing, according to China's state news agency Xinhua.

Flights have been grounded out of Hohhot, capital of China's Inner Mongolia.

Around a fifth of the incoming and outbound flights at Beijing Capital International Airport and Beijing Daxing International Airport were also cancelled.

Beijing's official air quality index reached a maximum of 500 on Monday morning, with floating particles known as PM10 rising beyond 8,000 micrograms per cubic metre in some districts, according to the city's pollution monitoring centre.

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The World Health Organization recommends average daily PM 10 concentrations of no more than 50 micrograms.

Readings of PM2.5, smaller particles that infiltrate the lungs, were also above 300 micrograms per cubic metre, far higher than China's standard of 35 micrograms.

The sandstorms were expected to shift south towards the Yangtze River delta and should clear by Wednesday or Thursday, the environment ministry said.

The 'great green wall'

Beijing faces regular sandstorms in March and April due to its proximity to the massive Gobi Desert as well as deforestation and soil erosion throughout northern China.

Beijing has planted a "great green wall" of trees to trap incoming dust and has also tried to create air corridors that channel the wind and allow sand and other pollutants to pass through more quickly.

Commuters drive past office buildings shrouded in dust
Environmentalists say China needs to do more to reduce its dependency on coal.(

AP: Andy Wong

)

This has reduced the storms' intensity, but the expansion of cities and industries has put constant pressure on the environment throughout China.

It wasn't clear if the storm was related to a recent general decline in air quality despite efforts to end Beijing's choking smog.

Tangshan, China's top steelmaking city and a major source of pollution in Beijing and Hebei, said on Saturday it would punish local enterprises for failing to carry out emergency anti-smog measures.

Beijing and surrounding regions have been suffering from high levels of pollution in recent weeks, with the city shrouded in smog during the national session of parliament which began on March 5.

The ruling Communist Party has pledged to reduce carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 18 per cent over the next five years.

Environmentalists say China needs to do more to reduce dependency on coal that has made it the world's biggest emitter of climate-changing gasses.

AP/Reuters

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2021-03-15 07:40:03Z
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