Asia Minute: Blinding Sandstorm Hits Chinese Capital

Mar 16, 2021

While much of the state has been hit with a lot of wet weather lately, a different kind of storm is causing issues in northern China. It’s the worst sandstorm in a decade, and the impact is stretching beyond the country.

Monday morning’s rush hour was a pretty grim event in Beijing this week — drivers could hardly see each other. Chinese weather officials warned of “hazardous” air, because of sandstorms blowing in from Inner Mongolia.

Reuters reports about 20% of the flights into and out of Beijing’s International Airport were cancelled, and that in some areas air pollution spiked to more than 160 times the recommended limit.

In recent years, air pollution in and around Beijing has improved somewhat — as new coal fired plants have been banned and emission limits on factories have been better enforced.

But the deserts of northern China continue to erode.

Sandstorms are seasonal, and the government says this is the worst in ten years.

South Korea’s government warned heavy winds will be pushing sand particles across the Korean peninsula Tuesday — with the results being “extraordinarily strong.”

Mongolia’s government says at least nine people were killed by sandstorms, which also knocked out power to thousands.

For China, advocacy groups including Greenpeace China say that underlying air pollution levels have been rising in recent weeks — at least in part because of increasing production of steel and cement as the economy continues to rebound from the COVID pandemic.