Thick choking smog returns to blanket Beijing, visibility falls below 100 metres
Yellow alert issued with poor air quality likely to last into the weekend
Beijing woke up to choking smog on Friday with neighbouring areas including Hebei province and Tianjin also blanketed by heavy air pollution.
Beijing residents face a weekend of hazardous smog, the Beijing Meteorological Station forecast, with other parts of northern China also likely to see similar conditions until late on Saturday, Chinese media reported.
Visibility dropped to below 100 metres in some areas of Beijing on Friday as air pollution mixed with heavy fog, the Weather China website reported.
The Beijing Meteorological Station issued a yellow alert, the lowest level in a three-tier system, warning of poor air quality.
Smog has affected major regions in northern China since Thursday, with Harbin, Daqing and Suihua, three major cities in northeastern Heilongjiang province, exceeding the maximum air quality index level of 500 points, the China News Service reported.
Air quality monitors showed heavy pollution in Tangshan, Harbin, Daqing and Suihua at 7am on Friday. Beijing, Shijiazhuang, Baoding, Zigong, Mianyang and Linyi also experienced high levels of pollution, the report said.
A cold breeze is expected to blow across the city on Saturday, which could reduce or even disperse the choking smog, with temperatures dropping sharply, according to the meteorological station.
The central part of Hebei is also likely to see the smog weaken or disappear late the same day as a front of cold air moves in, the China News Service reported.
The central government has grown increasingly concerned by the notorious smog in and around Beijing, which has sparked public criticism of the measures taken to tackle the problem and tarnished the image of the country’s political centre.
Four incidents of heavy smog had hit the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region so far this year, the director of the National Environmental Protection Bureau was quoted as saying.
He added that after the government-provided central heating is turned on in mid-November, the situation could worsen as the subsidised heating system used in the north, where winter temperatures drop below zero, is largely powered by coal.
Various methods have been taken to try to improve the air quality in the capital, including reducing the number of cars on the roads on set days.
Hebei will set up a no-coal zone from November 2017 to try to reduce air pollution in the region.
Beijing has also announced a plan to develop a network of “ventilation corridors” to help disperse smog.