Choking smog clears from northern China

2016-12-22 15:14
People exercise in a park after winds dispersed much of the pollution that left Beijing and other cities under a red alert. (Andy Wong, AP)

People exercise in a park after winds dispersed much of the pollution that left Beijing and other cities under a red alert. (Andy Wong, AP)

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Beijing - Smoggy skies turned clear in parts of China on Thursday after nearly a full week of severe pollution which saw scores of flights cancelled and forced the closure of schools in some areas.

The crisis spurred a call by Chinese President Xi Jinping for the country to develop clean energy sources during a meeting of a high-level government body on Wednesday.

Xi urged northern China to substitute natural gas and electricity for coal to heat buildings during the winter in order to reduce smog, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

More than 20 cities in the country's northeast, including Beijing, had been under a pollution "red alert" - the highest of a four-tiered, colour-coded warning system - until Thursday.

Low visibility

About 460 million people were affected by the blanket of smog, according to environmental group Greenpeace - more than the entire population of the US.

Shijiazhuang, the capital of the Hebei province, was the city hardest hit on Wednesday, with elementary schools and kindergartens closed, some factories shuttered and cars taken off the roads.

Hundreds of flights in the region were also cancelled and road and rail transport ground to a halt under the low visibility conditions.

Most of the country's greenhouse gas emissions come from the burning of coal for electricity and heating, particularly when demand peaks in winter.
Read more on:    greenpeace  |  china  |  pollution

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