Thick smog continued to affect large tracts of the mainland on Thursday, drastically reducing visibility and causing traffic chaos in more cities.
Thirteen highways in Liaoning province were closed temporarily and flights in the provincial capital Shenyang were disrupted after weather officials at 6am issued a red fog alert, the highest warning level that indicates a visibility of only 50 to 60 metres.
The meteorological bureau in Beijing upgraded a smog alert to a yellow fog alert at noon, warning that visibility in some areas would drop below 500 metres.
A choking stench continued to hang in the air as air pollution index (API) readings in Beijing stayed above 300 – classified as “severely polluted” – since Wednesday night, according to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau. The levels of PM2.5, small particles of pollutants deemed most hazardous to health, was 300 yesterday afternoon – 12 times the World Health Organisation recommended day-long maximum exposure level of 25.
Six cities in Shandong province, including Rizhao, suffered mid to severe-level smog after a yellow warning was raised 6am on Thursday. Residents in Yantai were advised to avoid outdoor activities after the city issued an orange smog alert at 10am.
Beijing’s air quality started to improve when the figure dropped from about 300 at 4pm to 170 an hour later.
Weather authorities in many places in the northeast of the country began lifting their warnings after 2pm after a cold front developed that would help disperse pollution on Friday.