Beijing im­poses smog emer­gency mea­sures

One city can­cels flights in sec­ond day of alert; high­ways closed be­cause of low vis­i­bil­ity.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By The As­so­ci­ated Press

beijing» A smog-shrouded Chi­nese city can­celed air­line flights Sun­day be­cause of poor vis­i­bil­ity and par­ents took chil­dren to hos­pi­tals on the sec­ond day of a pol­lu­tion alert across the coun­try’s north.

The of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency said 35 flights in Tian­jin, east of Beijing, were de­layed or can­celed. High­ways into the city of 7.5 mil­lion peo­ple were closed be­cause of “ex­tremely low vis­i­bil­ity.”

Beijing and 22 other Chi­nese cities im­posed emer­gency mea­sures Satur­day, in­clud­ing or­der­ing cars off the road and telling fac­to­ries and schools to close, af­ter pol­lu­tion soared to more than 10 times safe lev­els.

On Sun­day, the num­ber of chil­dren be­ing taken to Beijing hos­pi­tals with breath­ing trou­ble soared. Wait­ing rooms were crowded with par­ents car­ry­ing chil­dren who wore face masks.

Chi­nese cities are no­to­ri­ous for nox­ious air blamed on emis­sions from older cars and trucks, coal-fired power plants and fac­to­ries.

Mem­bers of the pub­lic closely watch lev­els of PM2.5, par­ti­cles mea­sur­ing 2.5 mi­crons across that are eas­ily in­haled and dam­age lung tis­sue.

The alert, this win­ter’s first, lasts through Wed­nes­day. The National Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Cen­ter said pol­lu­tion in a densely pop­u­lated swath stretch­ing from the coun­try’s north­east across Beijing to east­ern China was likely to worsen on Monday.

Vis­i­bil­ity in some ar­eas was as lit­tle as 3,280 feet, ac­cord­ing to the weather agency.

Author­i­ties in Ji­nan, south of Tian­jin, raised that city’s alert to the sec­ond-high­est level Sun­day af­ter the city “ba­si­cally dis­ap­peared” in the haze, the news­pa­per Jilu Even­ing News re­ported. Pho­tos on its web­site showed down­town of­fice tow­ers as ghostly sil­hou­ettes at mid­day.

Beijing and other cities have tried to im­prove air qual­ity by switch­ing power plants from coal to nat­u­ral gas and rolling out fleets of elec­tric buses and taxis.

The Beijing city weather bureau says that de­spite the lat­est spike, air in the Chi­nese cap­i­tal has im­proved. It says days on which was it was rated good in the first half of the year in­creased by 19 to 107, while the num­ber of heav­ily pol­luted days fell by two to 14.

These pho­tos show the Beijing sky­line on a clear day Wed­nes­day (top), a thin layer of pol­lu­tion over the sky­line Fri­day (mid­dle) and the sky­line ob­scured by pol­lu­tion Satur­day. Greg Baker, AFP/Getty Im­ages

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