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Thick fog enshrouds much of North China

(China Daily)

08:34, January 24, 2013

A sign reads "Visibility is low, please slow down" on the northern section of Beijing's Second Ring Road on Wednesday. (China Daily/Zou Hong)

Bad weather triggers renewed fears about pollution during Spring Festival

Dense fog blanketed parts of North China on Wednesday, delaying flights and snarling road traffic, while a murky haze hung over Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province.

Zhengding Airport in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, said it had been forced to cancel 16 flights and delay 12 due to the bad weather.

The province issued a red alert on Tuesday and Wednesday, the highest level, stating that visibility in most areas had dropped to below 50 meters.

Qiao Lin, chief forecaster for Beijing's meteorological bureau, said a yellow alert, the third-highest level, was issued in the capital, with residents advised to stay indoors.

Ma Xuekun, chief forecaster for the National Meteorological Center, said: "Such frequent foggy weather is rare, and it shows the importance of saving energy and reducing pollution."

He said the haze is expected to disappear from most northern areas by Thursday, when a cold front will arrive.

Highways across Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei and Shandong provinces were temporarily closed on Wednesday due to dense fog, the Ministry of Transport said.

The bad weather and snarled traffic are worrying many people planning to make their way home for Spring Festival.

Beijing father Lu Yao, 31, said he has changed his mind about driving home to Shenyang with his 3-year-old son during the weekend.

"It's too risky. It takes seven hours to get there, and there have been too many foggy days this year," he said, adding that he has invited his parents to Beijing for a traditional family reunion instead.

Wu Jialu, who was due to fly from Qingdao in Shandong to Shijiazhuang on Wednesday on a business trip, said he had been waiting all morning for the plane to leave.

The fog also caused renewed public concern over pollution.

Levels of PM2.5, particulate matter of less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, in downtown Beijing reached 359 on Wednesday, meaning the air quality is heavily polluted. PM2.5 can enter the lungs and bloodstream, causing breathing problems.

Yang Ping, a doctor at Hebei People's Hospital, said it had no more room for the increasing number of children with respiratory ailments.

A China Youth Daily poll of 6,913 people found that 69.9 percent hope the government takes effective measures to combat air pollution.

Beijing intends to reduce the amount of major air pollutants by 2 percent this year, according to a government work report delivered to the ongoing Beijing Municipal People's Congress.

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