Beijing issues rare triple orange warning on air quality

December 02, 2015 13:19
Beijing landmarks like the 'Bird's Nest' stadium were shrouded in smog. Photo: Reuters

Beijing city authorities issued three orange warning signals, as the capital was hit by hazardous air pollution, smog and heavy fog at the same time, Ming Pao Daily reported Wednesday, citing local media.

The alerts came Tuesday after the city put up an orange alert Sunday, the first this year, as pollution readings in parts of the city reached about 17 times the maximum considered safe by the World Health Organization.

On Tuesday, the intensity of the poisonous, tiny PM2.5 particles was near 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter in some of the worst-affected areas.

Most landmarks in the city were obscured by smog at 6 a.m., and more than 2,100 factories have been ordered to either suspend or limit production.

Visibility continued to be lower than 500 meters at Beijing Capital International Airport, leading to the cancellation of 77 flights and delays in a further 200 by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said multiple heavy snowfalls last month in northern China caused unfavorable weather conditions after the snow thawed, while smog increased as more coal was burned to provide heat.

Xie Shaodong, a professor at Beijing University’s college of environmental sciences and engineering, said the orange alert, the second-highest possible, might be conservative as far as the current level of pollution in Beijing is concerned.

He said it would not be inappropriate to raise the signal to a red alert, the highest level.

An expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, compared the serious pollution in Beijing to the Great Smog in London in 1952, when about 12,000 people died from air pollution and countless fell sick.

The smog is expected to subside Wednesday under the influence of cold and dry air.

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