Thick smog enveloped northeast China’s Harbin City for a third day yesterday, with schools and a regional airport shut and poor visibility forcing ground transport to a halt in places.
Images from Harbin, with more than 10 million people and the host of a popular annual ice festival, showed roads shrouded in smog, with visibility in some areas reduced to 20 meters.
More than 250 flights were canceled on Monday.
Air pollution levels were easing yesterday evening but remained as much as 15 times the levels deemed safe by the World Health Organization.
Figures from monitoring stations showed that concentrations of PM2.5, the tiny airborne particles considered most harmful to health, averaged 247 micrograms per cubic meter in the city, with one station showing 367.
That figure was down from yesterday morning’s level of 822 micrograms per cubic meter and Monday’s level of 1,000. The WHO’s recommended standard is 25.
The overall air quality index had improved to a measure of 297, or “heavily polluted.” Earlier yesterday, the figure exceeded 500, the highest level on the Chinese scale.
Residents described a smog that began choking people as much as a week ago but worsened considerably on Sunday night.
“You could feel the burning smell in the air, and on the second day the thick fog just blocked your way, keeping you from seeing anything,” said Song Ting, a 21-year-old student in Harbin. “It’s still disgusting.”
Zhao Yao, a 25-year-old IT engineer, said: “You feel sick when you breathe. You can’t see many people on the street now, and some people wear three masks when going out.”The Air Quality Index website doesn't include Harbin, but the link will take you to Beijing and a number of other Chinese cities. As I'm posting this, Beijing's AQI in 54 (Moderate) while Chengdu's is 180 (Unhealthy). A score of 297 sounds physically unbreathable.