Beijing shrouded by huge sandstorm

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 12:00am

One of the worst sandstorms to hit China in years blew into Beijing yesterday, covering the city in a cloud of yellow dust.

Many people were forced to wear masks to filter out the sand, which reduced visibility to 100 metres. The storm delayed flights and coated the city in a layer of grit.

Meteorologists said the storm was due to local sand and soil being whipped up by gusting winds of up to 14 metres per second.

The National Meteorological Bureau predicts three more sandstorms will occur in northern China over the next 10 days - today, Friday and April 8.

Meanwhile, large swathes of north China are recovering from sandstorms that ravaged the region at the weekend.

The storms affected more than 70 million people between Xinjiang and Jilin, according to the State Forestry Bureau.

Visibility was cut to 10 metres at the weekend, state media reported, complicating relief efforts after an earthquake last week in Inner Mongolia.

'When the wind came, the sky turned from blue to red and then black in the afternoon,' one resident was quoted as saying on the China Daily website.

On Wednesday, the region was hit with a earthquake registering 5.9 on the Richter scale. Reports said 80 per cent of the 1,500 tents put up after the earthquake had been destroyed, leaving about 10,000 victims without shelter.

North China has increasingly become a source of severe sandstorms that have sent clouds of dust floating over the Korean peninsula and as far away as Japan.