Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Thursday, March 21, 2002

Strong Sandstorm Hits Northern China, Envelops Beijing

A strongest and most intensive sandstorm of this spring has hit the north China region from west to east since March 19, according to the forecast released from the China Central Meteorological Station this morning.


Strong Sandstorm Hits Gansu
A serious sandstorm has hit eight provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in northwest and north China since Tuesday, affecting an area of 1.4 million square kilometers, according to the State Forestry Administration.

Experts said that affected by Mongolia cyclone, from Tuesday to Wednesday's afternoon, sandstorm covered most areas of northwest China and the northern and western areas of north China, including Beijing, together with five to seven degree strong wind.

The sandstorm has swept Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Hebei, Beijing and Tianjin, affecting 130 million people, 285,000 hectares of arable land and 2.36 million hectares of grassland.

Part of Gansu Province encountered the biggest sandstorm this year on Tuesday. In some areas, the sandstorm reduced the visibility to zero and the provincial capital Lanzhou's visibility was only 400 meters.

At the same time, the temperature in the province's Hexi Corridor dropped sharply by 12 to 19 degrees Celsius with snowfall.

The sandstorm hit central and western Inner Mongolia from Tuesday night, when strong sandstorm also swept the northern part of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Shaanxi, Shanxi and central and northern Hebei.

Experts predicted that tomorrow the sandstorm will weaken but still blow in most areas of the northern China.

In addition, the sandstorm has seriously affected the land and air transportation in the regions.

Sandstorm Envelops Beijing
A great yellow dust cloud enveloped the Chinese capital Wednesday, cutting visibility to less than 100 meters, in the worst sandstorm to hit Beijing in recent years.

The Palace Museum in central Beijing was swathed in yellow dust at noon Wednesday, and the portrait of Mao Zedong on the Tian' anmen gate tower was obscured.

Few pedestrians could be seen in the streets, but the number of traffic policemen was increased, ensuring the expressways and airport remained in operation.

In Wangfujing Street, the city's main commercial center, pedestrians wearing scarves and gauze masks scurried along with their heads lowered to blowing grit.

"I'm almost suffocating in this damn sandstorm," one pedestrian grumbled.

Wang Hongsheng, a senior citizen living in Beijing for more than 60 years, said such weather had seldom been seen in the city in recent years. "I remember seeing such sandstorms in the old days."

In the southern part of the city, the sky was darkened by a fog of sand, forcing vehicles and shops to turn on their lights.

The municipal government and information service departments have taken emergency measures to deal with the sandstorm.

Liu Yan, an official from the safety production department of the Beijing Economic Commission, said that an emergency circular was issued to stop outside work in elevated areas and warning that construction sites should be effectively covered.

Large advertising hoardings in the city were also being monitored against the wind and sand.

A policeman on the Chang'an Street said that the number of vehicles and their speeds had decreased. No serious accidents have yet been reported.

Although the meteorological department had forecast the sandstorm on Tuesday and warned citizens to prepare for it, many people were shocked by the yellow sky this morning.

Meteorological experts explained that the yellow sands originated from the Loess Plateau in northwest China.

Before dawn this morning, the cold air brought some rainfall to Beijing. The rain has helped to control local dust, but failed to stop the strong sandstorm, said experts.

Experts also warned citizens to take care if venturing out in the weather.

Nature Continues to Kick up a Storm: Analysis
In recent years, it seems that sand storms are affecting Chinese people's lives more frequently and extensively. As this spring draws near, more sand storms are expected. Among the many Chinese scholars probing the reasons and controlling measures of the sand storms, Wang Shejiao, of the Northwest Historical Environment and Economic Social Development Research Centre under the Shaanxi Normal University, has put forward a rather unique view. (In Detail)

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