Beijing was cloaked in thick yellow smog on Monday with pollution levels surging off the charts as the worst sandstorm in a decade descended on China’s capital. City residents used goggles, masks and hairnets to protect themselves from the choking air, with landmarks including the Forbidden City and the distinctive headquarters of state broadcaster CCTV partly obscured behind an apocalyptic-looking haze of dust and sand. The city government ordered all schools to cancel outside sport and events and advised those with respiratory diseases to stay inside, while some highways were partially closed.
The poor air quality was due to a sandstorm from northern Mongolia, where authorities said it had left several dead and dozens missing, before being carried south by winds and reducing visibility in Beijing to less than 500 metres.
Authorities described it as the worst sandstorm in a decade to hit the city, compounding days of hazardous PM 2.5 pollution in the capital. Under heavy skies, which draped buildings in an eerie glow, Beijing residents fretted over the health risks.
Six people were killed by the sandstorms in neighbouring Mongolia, the country’s national emergency management agency said Monday, including a five-year-old boy from a herder family.
Another 81 people were still missing as strong winds and dust storms swept the landlocked country, which borders China.
Pollution in the city was at “hazardous” levels, according to air quality monitoring website Aqicn, as the reading soared off the scale for many apps. Levels of PM 10 large particulate matter were nearly 20 times the World Health Organization’s recommended daily maximum exposure.