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Sandstorm laces northwest regions

A SANDSTORM hit regions of northwest China yesterday, delaying flights, stranding thousands of passengers and forcing schools to suspend classes.

Parts of five provincial regions were affected - Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and the provinces of Gansu and Shaanxi, the National Meteorological Center said.

The sandstorm hit the Gansu provincial capital of Lanzhou yesterday morning and reduced visibility to less than 500 meters, said Xu Dongbei, chief forecaster of the city's observatory.

Further west in Dunhuang, a tourist destination famous for Buddhist grottoes, the sandstorm lasted about 16 hours starting at 2:30am. Maximum wind speeds reached 24.3 meters per second and visibility fell to 20m.

"In terms of intensity and duration, (such a) sandstorm was rarely seen over the past decade," said Li Guanglin, chief forecaster of the city's observatory.

The sandstorm delayed two flights and forced many schools to suspend classes, local officials said.

"Agriculture might suffer serious damage from the sandstorm," said Gao Hua of the Dunhuang Municipal Forestry Bureau. "The strong wind swept away many greenhouse roofs, cotton seedlings and young grapes on the vine. Some trees and electrical poles were broken."

The local government is calculating the losses.

In Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, residents on the street were seen covering their mouths and noses tightly. At Hedong Airport, 12 flights were delayed.

Similar conditions prevailed in other provinces.

At Baita Airport in Hohhot, capital of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, 29 flights were delayed and three canceled due to poor visibility and strong winds, stranding thousands of passengers.

Meteorological authorities in these regions forecast a temperature drop of up to 8 degrees Celsius and even frost after the sandstorm.

In addition to the five provincial regions, parts of Shanxi, Henan and Shandong provinces were also forecast to have dusty weather last night and early this morning.


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