Friday 25 October 2013

Record smog in NE China

Severe Smog Appears throughout Northeast China

24 October, 2013

In recent days, severe smog appeared throughout the Northeast region of China. Pollution index in many cities continued to break records; Heilongjiang and Liaoning issued a warning of red fog.

Air, rail and road traffic were severely disrupted in three Northeast provinces and many highways were temporarily closed. Kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools in a number of cities were all closed. Some residents said that the end of the world was here.

Since the morning of October 20, the Northeast had severe smog.

The pollution index in Harbin of Heilongjiang Province continued to break records. On October 21, 2.5PM suspended particles index reached 1,000 in some areas, 50 times higher than WHO's required safety standards.

Many highways in Harbin temporarily were closed due to the thick smog which caused low visibility. Some bus lines also suspended their operations
and Taiping International Airport was forced to close. All these caused great inconveniences for people's lives.

Yu Yunfeng, Harbin resident: "It was so serious and inconvenient. Since October 20, schools were all closed and so were some work units."

Xiao Liang, bus driver from Harbin: "It is more serious in suburbs, and you cannot see anything beyond two yards. It affects driving badly, but in the city, you can see within five yards. Many public transportation has stopped operations, and highways basically are all closed. Drivers drive slowly anyway, and it is best not to drive."

Due to severe smog in Harbin, respiratory and ENT patients surged 20-30 percent in city hospitals. Masks are out of stock, and ordinary masks and surgical masks are in short supply in the city's major pharmacies. Some residents even wear several layers of masks.

A pharmacy salesman: "We have masks, and they just arrived today. The ordinary type are and all gone, sold out. We got new masks, but they soon will be gone."

The smog situation has eased somewhat, but from the official website, Harbin EPA monitoring data show that on Oct. 23, the pollution index was still around 400-500, which means serious, the highest level of pollution.

Harbin Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau explained the reasons for the heavy smog. It was due to operations of heating systems, gradually starting with boiler furnaces. In addition, it is an autumn soil preparation period, and a large number of suburbs and surrounding counties burn straw, producing a dense smoke.

However, residents questioned that living for many years in Harbin, even during the heating seasons, the city-wide smog had never been seen before.
Yu Yunfeng: "This kind of climate had not happened before."

Meanwhile, Changchun (Jilin Province) and Shenyang (Liaoning Province) also had serious smog like Harbin.

Xiao Zhu, Jilin University student: "We had very low visibility. If I stand a little farther from the intersection, I cannot see the traffic lights with thick fog in the morning. In the evening, if I don't wear a mask, It is very pungent, and my throat is uncomfortable with a particularly strong smell in the air."

After pictures of heavy smog circulated on the Internet, it hascaused a great deal of attention and discussions. Qi Shiming, a blog talent, wrote a poem as below,

Great virtual brings heavy fog,
Breathing it in with perseverance.
Working harder under smog,
Creating splendidly again.
He even sarcastically said that the fact proves fog is made
to be breathed in and our goal is to feed suspended particles to the public.
He asked: "Whose fault is this and who should shoulder
the responsibility?"

Foreign citizens have a hard time to understand China's harsh environmental condition. American netizens said: "We don't understand why the Chinese like to use masks to fight pollution, rather than insisting on cleaner air."

Some cittizens asked: "Is an annual GDP of 8-9 percent really worth it?"

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