April 2015 – BEIJING – Beijing was covered in a thick blanket of dust on Tuesday and Wednesday in one of the worst sandstorms the city has seen in more than a decade. As the evening set in, residents rushed to get home from work in the dust, as visibility continued to drop and traffic came to a standstill. It followed a yellow alert from China’s weather bureau, which warned that visibility would drop below 1,000 meters and air quality would deteriorate. The country has a four-tiered, color-coded system for weather events: red, orange, yellow and blue. Although in terms of scale, the sandstorm wasn’t of the highest level, it is believed to have been the worst in Beijing in 13 years.
In some areas, the pollution was recorded at a hazardous level of so-called particulate matter, which can enter the lungs and worsen respiratory and heart problems, and even contribute to deaths. The dust storm mixed together a toxic brew of pollution, given that China has some of the worst air quality of anywhere on Earth, and dust particles, making the air even less breathable than normal. The concentration of dangerous particulate matter, known as PM10, hit 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter at one point, well above safe levels.
Authorities advised residents to remain inside and secure outdoor items that could go flying in high winds. The government also recommended wearing face masks and goggles to avoid injury and respiratory issues. “It’s very dirty, I feel like it is the end of the world,” said one internet user of the scene, according to the South China Morning Post. While another mused: “It feels like we are living in a desert. I wonder how we can survive such bad weather.” –Mashable