[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific
Health alert over China sandstorm
Residents urged to stay indoors as storm sweeps large swathe of northern China.
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2010 07:46 GMT
A weekend sandstorm blanketed much of Beijing in a fine yellow dust [Reuters]

Meteorological officials in China have warned residents across a broad swathe of the north of the country to avoid going outside as an ongoing sandstorm swept across the area.

The storm, which first hit northeastern China on Saturday, has blanketed large areas in a fine yellow dust, forcing residents to cover their faces with masks and scarves.

In the capital, Beijing, on Sunday authorities issued a rare level five pollution warning, signalling hazardous conditions, and urging residents to stay indoors.

The storm continued to cast a pall over the city on Monday, cloaking the capital's skyscrapers in a greyish mix of sand, dust and pollution.

The sandstorms are mainly attributed to prolonged drought in northern China [Reuters]

Sandstorms have become increasingly common in arid northern China, which scientists say are caused by a combination of deforestation, prolonged drought and a resulting increase in desertification.

Four years ago, a sandstorm dumped at least 300,000 tonnes of sand on Beijing.

China has 2.6 million square kilometres of desert, an area nearly 2.5 times the country's total farmland, according to government statistics.

The storms in the north come as residents in China's southwest face what officials say is the worst drought seen in at least 60 years.

Since late last year, the provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou, have received only half their annual average rainfall, leaving at least 16 million people with severely depleted water supplies.

More than four million hectares of land were affected causing economic losses amounting to nearly $2.8bn

China's state-run Xinhua news agency said around 4,000 troops had been deployed to the region to help distribute emergency water supplies.

Forecasters meanwhile have said there is no sign of significant rainfall coming in the short term.

Over the weekend China's premier, Wen Jiabao, visited the region and called for united efforts to combat what he called an "extraordinary disaster".

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.