Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sandstorm covers Shanghai in dust

The eastern coast of China has borne the environmental brunt of a massive sandstorm that has swept across a large swath of the country, causing air quality in Shanghai to plummet to its worst level in years.

The sandstorm originated in the Southern Xinjiang Basin and has been traveling all the way east to the coastal regions since Thursday, blasting Shanghai and other cities in the Yangtze River Delta with sand and dust.

Statistics from the State Forestry Administration show the sandstorm has swept through 10 provinces and regions in the north and west of China, affecting an area of 2.3 million square kilometers and a population of 90 million. Beijing was hit by the sandstorm Saturday.

Nanjing, Suzhou, Nantong, and Ningbo, together with Shanghai, are areas that suffered the most severe conditions, according to a daily report on the air quality of major Chinese cities issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection on Monday.

Rains will ease the poor air quality in east China while sandstorms will linger in the north until today, according to a forecast from the China Meteorological Administration.

The air was so polluted that skyscrapers in Shanghai, particularly in Lujiazui in the Pudong New Area, were enshrouded in a cloud of mist and dust. Vehicles parked outside were covered with a thick layer of yellowish sediment.

"The air quality is the worst I have seen since I arrived in Shanghai in 2007," said expat Kevin Grimson. "I could hardly see the buildings two blocks away from my apartment." (read more)