Residents of Beijing awoke Sunday morning to a sun made blue by a fierce sandstorm that blanketed the city in dust.
The storm – which comes just 2 weeks after the most severe sandstorm the region has seen in 10 years – brought high levels of dangerous particles into the city and reduced visibility to just 3,300 feet.
Flights were postponed and residents were told to remain indoors.
Meteorologists say the dust was blown into northeast China from drought-stricken Mongolia and have warned residents to expect more storms during the month of April.
In an attempt to minimize local dust, Chinese officials will be inspecting construction sites and other potential violators to ensure compliance with air pollution rules including the proper disposal of waste.
According to Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua, such violations have increased by 30% this year.
“Beijing is what an ecological crisis looks like,” warns Li Shuo, policy director for Greenpeace China. “After two weeks of smog and static air, strong wind carries a sandstorm in, sending AQI off the chart.”
The Air Quality Index or AQI is used to determine the threat posed by polluted air. Here’s how it breaks down:
- A value of 0-50 is considered “good”
- A value of 51-100 is considered “moderate,” though some populations may be at risk
- A value of 101-150 is considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups”
- A value of 151-200 is considered “unhealthy for the general public”
- A value of 201-300 is considered “very unhealthy”
- A value of 301 or higher is considered “hazardous”
On Sunday, the AQI in Beijing reached 500.