Pollution brings capital to a crawl
Air quality in the nation's capital plunged yesterday morning to pre-Olympic levels again as dense smog blanketed the city, severely disrupting air and road traffic.
Pollution readings from both the local environmental watchdog and the US embassy exceeded the upper limit of 'hazardous' for most of the morning, prompting calls for urgent government action.
The thick shroud of smog enveloped the capital just after midnight and visibility was down to less than 100 metres by rush hour in the eastern and southern parts of the city, worsening morning traffic jams.
Tens of thousands of air travellers at Beijing Capital International Airport were trapped by the heavy smog, as more than 130 flights were cancelled or delayed by 10am, according to Xinhua.
Air traffic resumed in the early afternoon, when strong winds stirred up the stagnant choking air and cleared it from the city.
In an unusual move, the Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection made a prompt admission on a popular microblogging site yesterday morning. It said air quality in many parts of the city had hit the lowest level of the country's five-point air pollution index scale.
Pollution readings from the US embassy, which updates the data hourly on Twitter, surged past 400 micrograms per cubic metre soon after midnight and climbed to 534 by around 5am.
A reading that high is described by the embassy as 'beyond index', as it exceeds the upper limit of 500 on the US air pollution scale.