BEIJING Jan 1 Heavy smog in northern China on
Sunday caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled and highways
to shut, disrupting the first day of the new year holiday.
Large parts of the north were hit by hazardous smog in
mid-December, leading authorities to order hundreds of factories
to close and to restrict motorists to cut emissions.
The latest bout of air pollution began on Friday and is
expected to persist until Thursday, although it will ease
slightly on Monday, the last day of the new year holiday.
In Beijing, 24 flights were cancelled at the city's main
airport and all buses from there to neighbouring cities
suspended, the airport said in a statement on its official
Average concentrations of small breathable particles known
as PM2.5 were higher than 500 micrograms per cubic metre in
Beijing - 50 times higher than World Health Organization
In Tianjin, Beijing's next door metropolis, the smog was not
as serious but visibility much worse, with more than 200 flights
cancelled at Tianjin airport and conditions not expected to
improve in the near term, the city government said.
Some bus routes and highways in Tianjin were also closed due
to the smog, the government added.
In Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of Hebei province
that surrounds most of the Beijing, about two dozen flights were
cancelled and eight flights diverted to other airports because
of the smog, the People's Daily said on its website.
A total of 24 Chinese cities have issued red alerts for the
current round of pollution, which mandate measures like limiting
car usage and closing factories, while 21 have issued orange
alerts, including Beijing and Tianjin.
China began a "war on pollution" in 2014 amid concerns its
heavy industrial past was tarnishing its global reputation and
holding back its future development, but it has struggled to
effectively tackle the problem.
Pollution alerts are common in northern China, especially
during winter when energy demand, much of it met by coal, soars.
The country's northern provinces mostly rely on the burning
of hundreds of millions of tonnes of coal each year for heating
during northern China's bitterly cold winters.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Richard Pullin)