Sandstorms, serious pollution returns to Beijing

April 11 (Reuters) – Heavy sandstorms will hit Beijing and several provinces through Wednesday, state media reported, and Chinese meteorologists have advised citizens of respiratory hazards and low visibility while traveling.

The capital, Beijing, has seen regular air pollution and an unseasonal number of sandstorms over the past few weeks.

Meteorologists have issued a blue weather warning for sandstorms. China has a four-tiered, color-coded warning system, with red representing the most severe alert and blue representing the least severe.

On Tuesday morning, smog and hazy gray clouds could be seen surrounding Beijing, and the city’s real-time air quality index was at a dangerous pollution level, according to the website of the Beijing Municipal Environment and Environmental Monitoring Center.

The concentration of fine particulate matter in Beijing’s air is currently 46.2 times the World Health Organization’s annual guideline value for air quality, according to the IQAir website, which releases air quality data and information.

The Central Meteorological Observatory said dozens of provinces, including Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan, Hubei, Inner Mongolia and the city of Shanghai, will be affected by sandstorms and severe dust until 8 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Wednesday.

The sandstorms were once again a hot topic of discussion on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, amassing 2.178 million conversations.

One user wrote, “What! When I wake up, why isn’t anyone issuing a holiday notice, you still have to go to work in the dust today!”

Beijing experiences regular sandstorms in March and April as it is located near the large Gobi desert.

A Chinese government official at the Ministry of Environment and Environment recently said the number of sandstorms is now four times higher than it was in the 1960s, as a result of higher temperatures and lower precipitation in the deserts of northern China and neighboring Mongolia.

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(Reporting by Bernard Orr) Editing by Sonali Paul

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