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December 23, 2015

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40 cities on pollution alert as north China continues to choke on smog

FORTY cities in north China, including Beijing and Tianjin, issued or maintained alerts for air pollution yesterday.

Beijing, together with Baoding, Handan, Langfang and Xingtai in neighbouing Hebei Province, are on red alert, the most serious.

Hebei, home to six of the 10 most polluted Chinese cities in November, issued its first red alert for smog at noon yesterday although the four cities on red alert had issued theirs before the provincewide alert.

Guo Yingchun, a spokesman for the provincial meteorological department, said all the province’s 11 cities will roll out strict measures, including limiting the number of vehicles on the road.

Tianjin issued its first alert for air pollution on Monday night and that was upgraded to red at midnight last night and will last until 6am tomorrow, according to a government statement.

During the red alert, as in Beijing, cars will be allowed on the roads depending on whether their license plate ends in an odd or even number, enterprises and public institutions will adopt flexible working hours and large outdoor activities and construction work will be suspended.

Kindergartens, middle schools and primary schools will also cancel classes today. Key polluting industries will cut production as continuous cleaning operations are conducted in the city’s downtown areas.

Beijing was hit with severe air pollution yesterday, with pollution levels expected to reach grade six on a six-grade gauge in the southern part of the city, according to the city’s environmental monitoring center.

“Affected by increased humidity and temperature inversion, the density of PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers which are particularly hazardous to health) may exceed 500 micrograms per cubic meter,” according to Li Yunting, an environmental expert at the center.

The PM2.5 figure was 330 micrograms per cubic meter at 7pm, according to the center.

The capital issued its second red alert at 7am on Saturday.

The pollution level in the capital is predicted to decrease to grade four, still hazardous for health, today and the smog is expected to disperse tomorrow with the arrival of a cold front.

Heavy smog has hit the country’s Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region on three occasions since late November. Low wind speed, high humidity and unfavorable wind conditions are the main causes of the smog, according to Li.

Meanwhile, other parts of Beijing’s neighboring provinces also witnessed some of the worst smog so far this year from Saturday.

Orange, yellow and blue alerts have been issued in cities in the provinces of Henan, Shandong and Liaoning.

Due to limited visibility because of heavy fog and smog, the high-speed rail linking Shenyang, capital city of Liaoning, and the coastal city of Dalian cut its speed to 200 kilometers per hour from the usual 300 kilometers per hour, according to the Shenyang railway bureau. The PM2.5 level was 248 micrograms per cubic meter in Shenyang as of 7pm yesterday.

In addition, 15 highways in Liaoning Province were either completely or partially closed.


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