China extends pollution ‘orange alert’
BEIJING and other cities across northern and central China were shrouded in thick smog yesterday, prompting authorities to delay dozens of flights and close highways.
The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau extended an “orange alert” for heavy air pollution for three more days. Beijing’s smog had initially been forecast to lift by yesterday. The orange alert is the third level, preceding a “red alert” in China’s four-tiered warning system. On Sunday, 25 cities in China issued “red alerts” for smog, which triggers orders to close factories, schools and construction sites.
Air pollution readings in northern Chinese cities were many times above the World Health Organisation-designated safe level of 25 micrograms per cubic metre of fine particulate matter, the tiny, toxic particles that damage lung tissue. The readings exceeded 400 by yesterday afternoon in several cities in the northern province of Hebei.
Highways in Shijiazhuang, Hebei’s capital, and more than a half-dozen other cities there were temporarily closed.
In the central city of Zhengzhou, authorities ordered students from kindergarten through high school to stay at home today because of the smog.
More than 300 flights out of the northern city of Tianjin were cancelled on Sunday due to poor visibility.
Authorities had deployed teams of inspectors to check on potentially polluting factories, reports said.
China has long faced some of the worst air pollution in the world, blamed on its reliance of coal for energy and factory production, as well as a surplus of older, less efficient cars on its roads.
Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck institute have estimated that smog has led to 1.4 million premature deaths per year in China, while the non-profit group Berkeley Earth in California has a higher figure – 1.6 million.
A man wearing a mask walks on a street in Beijing on Friday with the capital of China covered by heavy smog. Beijing and other cities across northern and central China were shrouded in thick smog yesterday, prompting authorities to cancel dozens of flights and close highways.