Sandstorms are an annual phenomenon in China. Strong winds turn up large amounts of sand from the desert.
And this year has been no exception.
“Some think that maybe the storms are from the dried out rivers around Beijing. The sandstorm is directly connected to the dust from the dry river beds which is blowing into Beijing.” That from the Director of an environment NGO, GreenSOS.
According to the director there are usually two reasons that a sandstorm occurs. “One is climate change and the other is over-exploitation of China's rivers and water resources.”
On Saturday, the sand in Beijing forced residents to wear face masks to help keep the grit out of their noses and throats. There was enough sand for the weather bureau to give the air quality a hazardous ranking. In some areas the wind reached, up to 100 kilometres per hour making it very difficult to breathe through the dust. Many people were told to stay indoors with the windows closed and to cover their mouths if they ventured outside.
Finally, things are returning to normal in the region. Skies are clearer, but officials say it will take another day for the air to completely clean up. After hitting record pollution quantities on Monday, conditions are expected to ease to 'high' or 'very high' by Wednesday.
The country's expanding desert regions have led to a serious increase in the amount of storms. Almost one third of the country is covered by desert because of overgrazing, deforestation, urban sprawl and drought.
China has planted thousands of acres of land recently to try and stop the spread of sandstorms.
Some officials are saying it could be the worst storm of it's kind this year. Beijing saw the worst sandstorm in 2006, when nearly 300,000 tons of sand was dumped on the capital.
The current conditions are forecast to linger for another couple of days.
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