100s of flights cancelled in Beijing

2011-12-05 12:35
Beijing - Beijing authorities cancelled hundreds of flights and shut highways as thick smog descended on the Chinese capital on Sunday and Monday, reducing visibility at one of the world's busiest airports.

Air quality in Beijing reached "hazardous" levels on Monday, according to the US embassy, which conducts its own measurements, while China's state Xinhua news agency said pollution was likely to reach "dangerous" levels.

Nearly 400 flights were cancelled on Sunday, China's state television network CCTV reported.

By midday on Monday, Beijing's main airport - the second busiest in the world - had cancelled 132 domestic and five international flights, according to its website.

Television footage of the airport concourse showed thousands of stranded passengers being turned away, or waiting around in hopes of booking later flights if the smog lifted.

Most major highways linking Beijing to other parts of north China were closed early on Monday due to the smog, but sections of some roads began opening throughout the day as the visibility improved, CCTV reported.

International organisations including the UN, list Beijing as one of the most polluted cities in the world, mainly due to its growing energy consumption, much of which is still fuelled by coal.

Authorities in Beijing went to huge lengths to clean up the city's air ahead of the 2008 Olympics, shutting down coal-fired power stations and restricting the number of cars on the roads, but air quality in the city remains poor.

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