The Chinese capital of Beijing was covered in thick smog on Monday as it experienced what its weather bureau has called ‘the worst sandstorm in a decade’.
The storm caused an unprecedented spike in air pollution measurements – with pollution levels in some districts at 160 times the recommended limit.
Hundreds of flights have been cancelled or grounded as the sky turned into an apocalyptic-looking haze of dust. The sand is being brought in by strong winds from Mongolia.
Mongolia is experiencing severe sandstorms, which have already resulted in six deaths while dozens remain missing. China’s Global Times media outlet reported that at least 12 provinces in the country, including the capital, have been affected. The weather is likely to continue through the day on Monday and improve at night, it added.
“It looks like the end of the world,” Beijing resident Flora Zou told news agency Reuters. “In this kind of weather I really, really don’t want to be outside.”
The WHO currently sets safe levels of air quality based on the concentration of polluting particles called particulate matter (PM) found in the air.
According to news wire AFP quoting the Global Times, the PM 10 pollution in six central districts reached “over 8,100 micrograms per cubic metre” on Monday. The WHO considers levels between 0-54 as “good” and 55-154″ as “moderate” levels of PM 10.
AFP added that schools had been told to cancel outdoor events, and those with respiratory diseases advised to stay indoors.