Thick smog envelops swathes of China for fourth time this winter
By Neil Connor, AFPBEIJING--Residents across northern China battled through choking pollution at extreme levels on Tuesday, as Beijing was plunged into toxic twilight for the fourth time this winter.
January 30, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
Visibility was reduced to around 200 meters in parts of the capital, where mask-wearing pedestrians made their way through a murky haze, despite warnings from authorities to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.
In a Beijing city office visited by AFP, up to 20 workers worried that the pollutants could penetrate indoors took extra precautions, wearing gas mask-style protective headgear at their desks.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) gave the smog's second day huge airplay, showing vehicles using full headlights in mid-morning to light their way through the noxious cloud over huge swathes of northern China.
More than 100 flights were delayed or cancelled at Zhengzhou Airport in Henan, said CCTV, adding that the haze would last until Thursday.
In the eastern province of Shandong, almost 2,000 passengers were stranded at Qingdao's main airport after it shut with 20 flights cancelled as visibility dropped to 100 meters, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Beijing's winter of smog has sparked an Internet outcry and anger from state media.
The China Daily reiterated its calls for firm action on Tuesday, directing them at the capital's newly installed mayor Wang Anshun, who formally took over on Monday.
“What do Beijing residents expect of their new mayor?” asked the newspaper in an editorial. “Of all the things that need improving, cleaner air will be at the top of many people's wish list.”
Wang was quoted by Xinhua as saying: “The current environmental problems are worrisome.”
The Beijing News went as far as to suggest banning or regulating next month's traditional and hugely popular New Year fireworks in the capital. Pollution readings spiked last year after the city's skyline lit up with explosions.
The U.S. Embassy's air quality index (AQI) reading for Beijing stood at 457 and “hazardous” at 5pm on Tuesday, after having reached 517, or “beyond index,” at 6 a.m.
Meanwhile, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre gave the figure as 406, indicating the capital's air was “severely polluted.”