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17 Dec, 2016 11:16

Shrouded in smog: 5-day pollution ‘red alert’ declared in Beijing (PHOTOS)

Shrouded in smog: 5-day pollution ‘red alert’ declared in Beijing (PHOTOS)

A five-day pollution ‘red alert’ has been announced in China’s capital, Beijing, and other cities, with schools closed, roads blocked, and residents told to stay indoors. Over 20 more cities are also said to be affected.

The warning came into effect on Friday at 4:20pm, as the main Chinese news agency tweeted “Smog invades Beijing,” while posting a timelapse as well. Another tweet from Xinhua showed the skies blackening on Friday.

Primary schools and nurseries will remain shut down until Wednesday, when the smog situation is supposed to end, according to Xinhua.

Old and ‘dirty’ vehicles have been banned from the roads, while polluting industries were told to halt or minimize their work.

According to Chinese media, 388 people have been fined for lighting outdoor barbecues and fires.

Beijing, with its population of 21 million, wasn’t the only city to declare a red alert, the Chinese ministry of environmental protection said, listing 21 other cities hit by pollution, including Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan, and Zhengzhou.

The red alert was introduced about a year ago as part of a four-tier warning system inaugurated in 2015 in the framework of the country’s war on pollution.

Nevertheless, in February, Beijing had to raise the red alert threshold. A red alert is currently declared if the average air quality is at 200 AQI (air quality index) for four days in a row, 300 for at least two days, or 500 for a single day.

An initiative to build wind corridors through the capital to help alleviate the smog was announced in February. The ventilation corridors are to measure 80 to 500 meters and connect parks and rivers, highways, and tall buildings.

Additionally, in January, China closed down some 2,500 polluting companies to lessen the smog, while admitting that the country is unlikely to meet its anti-pollution goals by 2030.

Experts believe that China has made headway in addressing environmental problems, but it still has a very long way to go. Beijing-based environmentalist Ma Jun told the New York Times earlier this week that, although the country has made “huge progress” in tracking the sources of pollution, the risks to its citizens’ health remain.

“There isn’t much research on the relation between air pollution and lung cancer in China, and even less with accessible research results. It’s sensitive. The government does not want to cause panic among the public,” he said.