Beijing hit by the biggest sandstorm in almost a decade
Beijing and parts of northwestern China were covered in a layer of thick dust brought by heavy winds blowing in from the Gobi desert. More than 400 flights were canceled at both of Beijing’s airports, skyscrapers were obscured in a thick brown haze, and morning traffic was snarled with visibility greatly reduced.
The sand is being brought in by strong winds from Inner Mongolia. In Mongolia the severe sandstorms have reportedly caused six deaths and left dozens missing.
Air quality indexes recorded a ‘hazardous’ 999 rating Monday late evening as commuters travelled through the thick, dark air across China’s capital and further west.
Chinese meteorological authorities issued its second highest alert level shortly before 7.30am, staying in place until midday. A broader warning for sand and dust blowing in from the western desert regions is put in effect until Tuesday morning.
“In some places, there are strong sandstorms with visibility of less than 500 meters (1,640 feet),” said the China Meteorological Administration in a statement on Monday. “This is also the strongest dust and sand weather affecting China in almost 10 years.”
Sandstorms have also hit northern Hebei and Shanxi provinces, western Gansu, and central and western Inner Mongolia on Monday, Xinhua said. Other parts of the country, including northern Xinjiang, are seeing high levels of wind gusts. The sandstorms are expected to last through Tuesday.
Mongolia, which lies north of mainland China, is experiencing strong cyclones, said the statement given by the meteorological administration. The sand and dust from Mongolia have moved eastward and southward over China’s northern regions, carried by the cold high pressure at the back of the cyclone.