A severe sandstorm has swept across Beijing and several northern provinces in China, blanketing the region in thick clouds of orange dust and sending air pollution soaring to hazardous levels, state weather authorities said.
Dense clouds enveloped the Chinese capital where the air quality index of PM10 - particles of pollution that are less than 10 micrometers in diameter and can enter through the nose and travel to the lungs - have exceeded monitoring charts, according to the Beijing Ecological Environment Monitoring Center.
Weather authorities in Beijing warned people not to go outdoors for exercise and other activities, and have asked drivers to stay vigilant and reduce speed because of low visibility, reported CNN.
China has a four-tier, colour-coded weather-warning system, with red representing the most severe warning, followed by orange, yellow and blue.
Beijing, which was also issued a yellow sandstorm warning, has experienced sand and dust storms over the past several days, causing pollution levels to drastically increase.
Nearly a dozen provinces issued yellow warning signals from Wednesday to early morning Thursday, including Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Shandong, Henan, Jiangsu, Anhui and Hubei, according to China's Meteorological Administration, reported CNN.
Photos on social media showed people riding bicycles through the city amid swirls of dust, with one showing a bike seat covered in sand.
Concentrations of PM10 particles hit 1,667 micrograms per cubic meter by 6 a.m. local time, according to Beijing's monitoring center on Wednesday, with the agency calling it "the most severe sandstorm to date this year."
The city faces regular sandstorms during March and April because of its proximity to the massive Gobi Desert, as well as deforestation throughout northern China.
(ANI | Posted on 22 March 2023, 1695526653 44O192O254O173)