Two detained for internet claims over yellow cloud

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2012, 12:00am


Two men have been detained in Wuhan for spreading rumours online that an unusual yellowish haze enveloping most of the city on Monday was generated by a furnace explosion or leak from a chemical plant. Authorities insist it was caused by the burning of corn stalks.

The online rumour spread quickly in the city of 9 million residents, many of whom complained about the stench and suggested it was smog.

Authorities in Wuhan said the air pollution from burning corn stalks had come from across Hubei province as well as neighbouring Anhui and Henan provinces. A senior engineer at the Hubei Environmental Monitoring Centre, Tian Yiping, said yesterday that high temperatures and low wind speeds had contributed to the dense haze.

But authorities ruled out the possibility that the haze was caused by industrial pollution.

However, Wu Feng, an associate professor of environmental chemistry at Wuhan University, said that while corn stalk smoke would contribute to the problem, there was only a slim possibility that it alone would cause haze on such a large scale.

Wu said his preliminary analysis indicated that Monday's haze also contained particulates of nitrogen oxides, sulphides and nitrates that were usually generated by industrial combustion and urban pollution such as vehicle exhaust emissions.

'The accumulation of pollutants from the upper atmosphere, triggered by the climate, could be the main reason,' Wu said. 'Atmospheric factors are also critical to the formation of haze.'

However, Monday's haze was among the worst in Wuhan in the past 30 to 40 years, he said.

Many residents have complained on the Sina Weibo microblog. 'Is this the end of the world?' asked microblogger Greengreenfish2011. 'My head has been reeling for the entire day. The air made me want to vomit.'

Another, tagged 'A linsainly', said: 'Every one is wearing a face mask ... the entire city of Wuhan is enveloped in haze and it looks like everyone in city is burning stoves.'

The haze had eased yesterday over the city. A similar haze was reported in Nanjing on Sunday, raising criticism about the continuing deterioration of air quality in major mainland cities.