|People visit the Tian'anmen Square as thick fog smothers
Beijing November 20, 2006. Heavy fog enveloped the capital and much
of north and east China beginning Sunday night, forcing the closure
of highways around the Beijing and Tianjin area, and delay of
several flights at the Capital International
Beijing residents have warned to stay indoors due
to high pollution levels, as a blanket of heavy smog
across northern China caused traffic
chaos and delayed flights throughout the region.
weather conditions it is better to reduce outdoor activities especially in
areas where pollutants are concentrated such as where traffic is heavy,"
the Beijing environmental protection bureau said on its website Monday.
"Residents should take measures to protect themselves in order not to
breathe heavily polluted air."
During the 24-hour period from Sunday noon, Beijing's air quality was
rated a "hazardous" four on a scale of five, the bureau said, with five
representing the worst level of pollution.
Besides the regular car pollution, the bad air quality was also due to
the city's 6,000 coal-fire heating
furnaces and up
to two million home coal burners that went into operation
this month to provide the capital with heat, it said.
Meanwhile the blanket of smog caused traffic chaos as drivers were left
lined up at numerous highways that were shut down due to the atmospheric
Five highways in the capital and eight in neighboring Tianjin
were shut down beginning late
Sunday due to the fog, which reduced visibility in some places to as low
as 100 meters, Xinhua news agency reported.
During Beijing's early morning rush hour Monday, 154 accidents were
reported, with some of the incidents due to heavy smog, the report said.
Fog was worse in northeastern Liaoning province and eastern Shandong
province where air flights in and out of the regions were delayed since
Sunday, separate reports said.
Beijing has set an ambitious annual target of realizing "blue sky days"
of level two air quality or better 65 percent of the time.
As of November 14, the city had registered 213 blue sky days and needed
an additional 25 more clean air days by the end of the year to reach the
target, the environmental bureau said.
"We still have hopes to fulfill this year's task, it can be done but it
will be a serious challenge and we must not take this lightly," it said in
Beijing, a city of 15 million people, is regarded as one of the most
heavily polluted in China, although authorities are trying desperately to
improve the situation ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.