Chinese city ‘swallowed’ as ferocious sandstorm creates blizzard of hazards for police and firefighter

  • Air pollution levels across Gansu skyrocket as cities grind to a halt
  • Police shepherd heavy vehicles to safety at truck stops and toll stations
PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2018, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2018, 10:02pm

A city was “swallowed” and people ran for cover as sandstorms swept northwestern China on Sunday afternoon, cutting visibility in some areas to 10 metres and causing mayhem on the roads, Chinese media reported.

Gansu province’s central and western parts – which stretch 1,000km and are known historically as the Hexi Corridor – were swept by sandstorms at about 4pm on Sunday, bringing agriculture, transport and outdoor activities to a halt, the China News Service reported.

“In the morning it was sunny. But in the afternoon, a sand wall about 100 metres tall brought by a gale approached our city. The sandstorm instantly swallowed the city,” a resident of Zhangye was quoted as saying.

The ferocity and rapidity of the storm sent people outside running to nearby buildings for cover, the report said.

By 7pm, the air in the cities of Jiayuguan, Jiuquan, Zhangye, Jinchang and Wuwei was “severely polluted”, reports said, and air quality index warnings went beyond “hazardous”, the maximum level.

In Minle county in Zhangye, one of the worst-hit areas, video from firefighters showed the storm covering the whole urban area in five minutes, cutting visibility to less than 10 metres, state television reported.

Police said visibility on some motorways in Zhangye fell to less than 100 metres as the storm hit, while officers guided trucks and articulated lorries to service stations or toll stations for safety. In rural areas, fire crews were sent to douse burning haystacks set alight by sparks blown from domestic fires by the storm.