Pollution shuts down Chinese city

Pollution shuts down Chinese city

 Choking smog all but shut down one of northeastern China’s largest cities on Monday, forcing schools to suspend classes, snarling traffic and closing the airport, in the country’s first major air pollution crisis of the winter.

Meteorological authorities in Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces issued a red alert for thick smog or fog.

The fog will worsen in Harbin, Yichun, Daqing, Suihua, Jiamusi and Qitaihe cities in Heilongjiang with visibility of less than 100 metres in the next 24 hours, official media quoted the provincial meteorological station as saying.

Air pollution has become one of the major public concerns in China.

An index measuring PM2.5, or particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5), reached a reading of 1,000 in some parts of Harbin, home to some 11 million people.

A level above 300 is considered hazardous, while the World Health Organisation recommends a daily level of no more than 20.

All highways in Heilongjiang and Taiping International Airport in Harbin were closed due to the weather. Harbin’s education authorities issued a notice to suspend classes at all primary and middle schools.

Some public buses also stopped running in Harbin. Many citizens had to walk or use other means of transport to work. Drug stores in the city were selling out of masks.
“The sale of masks was at least 10 times the normal rate. We sold more than 140 masks this morning in our shop,” state-run Xinhua news agency quoted a salesman of a drug store in Xiangfang District, Harbin as saying. “My mask turned black after I wore it for half an hour,” said a netizen in his microblog.

Highways were closed and flights disrupted in Jilin and Liaoning. “The building 50 metres away cannot be seen clearly. I smelt irritating coal smoke when I opened the window of my house,” said Sun Qi, a resident in Changchun, provincial capital of Jilin.

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