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‘Airpocalypse’ smog in Beijing

Jan. 16: Today, some residents of Beijing woke up with splitting headaches. A curtain of haze had fallen across the city of more than 20 million. It was the first “airpocalypse” of the year in the Chinese capital and nearby provinces.

“How does the smog differ from the apocalypse?” Joe Wong, a comedian from northeast China, wrote on his microblog last night, when the pollution levels had begun surging. “After the apocalypse, you no longer worry about the smog.”

Last night, the US embassy in Beijing began sending out online warnings that the air quality level had gone above 500, the upper limit of the measurement scale, and was now “beyond index” (or “crazy bad”, as one embassy employee had written on an official embassy Twitter account several years ago.) It stayed at that level until today, when it dipped to “hazardous” from “beyond index”. Hazardous means an air quality index above 300, at which point the concentration of fine particulate matter in the air is many times the exposure limit recommended by the WHO.

Xinhua, the state news agency, reported that Chinese officials had ordered the closing of some highways, and visibility in some parts of Beijing was expected to drop to 500 metres.

The municipal government issued a yellow smog alert at 7am. “The smog is forecast to last until Friday morning,” Xinhua reported.

The four major highways closed were those from Beijing to Shanghai, Daqing to Guangzhou, Beijing to Harbin and Beijing to Pinggu.

 
 
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