Dangerous pollution levels blight Chinese city

Oct 22, 2013
A woman wearing a mask covers her mouth with her hands as she walks in the smog in Harbin, China's Heilongjiang province, on October 21, 2013

Thick smog enveloped a major Chinese city for a third day Tuesday, with schools and a regional airport shut and poor visibility forcing ground transport to a halt in places.

Images from Harbin, a northeastern of more than 10 million people and the host of a popular annual ice festival, showed roads shrouded in smog, with visibility in some areas reduced to less than 50 metres.

Flights remained severely delayed, after more than 250 flights were cancelled at the local airport on Monday, according to Chinese media.

Air pollution levels were easing on Tuesday afternoon but remained as much as 15 times the levels deemed safe by the World Health Organisation.

Figures from monitoring stations showed that concentrations of PM2.5, the considered most harmful to health, averaged 266 micrograms per cubic metre in the city, with one station showing 415.

That figure was down from Tuesday morning's level of 822 micrograms per cubic metre and Monday's level of 1,000. The WHO's recommended standard is 25.

The overall air quality index had improved to a measure of 397, or "severely polluted". Earlier Tuesday, the figure exceeded 500, the highest level on the Chinese scale.

A policeman directs traffic in heavy smog in Harbin, China's Heilongjiang province, on October 21, 2013

Residents of the far northeastern city described a smog that began choking people as much as a week ago but worsened considerably on Sunday night.

"You could feel the burning smell in the air, and on the second day the thick fog just blocked your way, keeping you from seeing anything," said Song Ting, a 21-year-old student in Harbin. "It's still disgusting."

Zhao Yao, a 25-year-old IT engineer, said: "You feel sick when you breathe. You can't see many people on the street now, and some people wear three masks when going out."

The smog in Harbin came as it activated its public heating system before the icy winter, state media said.

It is China's latest major pollution-related episode.

The issue causes significant public anger and several Chinese newspapers carried images from Harbin on their front pages Tuesday.

A girl cycles on a street under heavy smog in Harbin, China's Heilongjiang province, on October 21, 2013

In January thick smog blanketed Beijing—with similar PM2.5 levels to Harbin this week—garnering headlines, as well as a nickname "airpocalypse", in news reports around the globe.

At the time Harbin escaped the worst of the pollution, but huge areas of northern China have been shrouded by smog at various times this year.

Pollution from rapid development and heavy coal use plagues wide swathes of China, prompting public criticism and pledges from the country's leadership to make improvements.

Last Friday American jazz singer Patti Austin cancelled a scheduled concert at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing due to a "severe asthma attack" after arriving in the notoriously -ridden capital, according to a statement on her website.

Explore further: Chinese city blanketed in heavy pollution

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Chinese city blanketed in heavy pollution

Oct 21, 2013

Choking clouds of pollution blanketed a Chinese city famed for its annual ice festival Monday, reports said, cutting visibility to 10 metres (33 feet) and underscoring the nation's environmental challenges.

China factory fire hidden by thick smog: media

Jan 15, 2013

A factory fire in eastern China went unnoticed for three hours because of the thick smog that blanketed large stretches of the country this week, state media said Tuesday.

'Off the scale' smog grounds flights in Beijing

Jan 10, 2012

More than 150 flights to and from Beijing were cancelled or delayed on Tuesday as a thick cloud of acrid smog shrouded the city, with US figures saying the pollution was so bad it was off the scale.

'Off the scale' smog envelops Beijing again

Jan 29, 2013

Residents across northern China battled through choking pollution on Tuesday, as air quality levels rose above index limits in Beijing amid warnings that the smog may not clear until Thursday.

Recommended for you

'Shocking' underground water loss in US drought

Jul 24, 2014

A major drought across the western United States has sapped underground water resources, posing a greater threat to the water supply than previously understood, scientists said Thursday.

User comments : 0