Tuesday 6 December 2016

Authorities close schools and limit driving as smog crisis cripples Beijing

Christopher Bodeen in Beijing

Published 08/12/2015 | 02:30

A woman wearing a mask to protect herself from pollutants walks past office buildings shrouded with pollution haze in Beijing.
A woman wearing a mask to protect herself from pollutants walks past office buildings shrouded with pollution haze in Beijing.

Beijing issued its first-ever red alert for smog yesterday, urging schools to close and invoking restrictions on factories and traffic that will keep half of the city's vehicles off the roads.

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The red alert - the most serious warning on a four-tier system adopted a little over two years ago - means authorities have forecast more than three consecutive days of severe smog.

A notice from the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said it issued the alert to "protect public health and reduce levels of heavy air pollution."

Beijing hotel staffer Fan Jinglong said the smog forecast was "really worrisome."

"We have no choice but to step up preventative measures like wearing a mask outdoors at all times," he said.

Readings of PM2.5 particles climbed toward 300 micrograms per cubic metre yesterday and are expected to continue rising before the air begins to improve with the arrival of a cold front on Thursday. The World Health Organisation designates the safe level for the tiny, poisonous particles at 25.

Along with school closures and limiting cars to driving every other day, a raft of other restrictions will seek to reduce the amount of dust and other particulate matter in the city of 22.5 million people.

It's the second time in the past few months that notoriously polluted Beijing has experienced a prolonged bout of smog. Beijing was also shrouded in persistent smog for most of November, when power demand soared due to cold weather.

Irish Independent

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