Sandstorm engulfs desert city in China

A heavy sandstorm engulfing buildings on July 25 in Dunhuang in northwest China's Gansu province. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - A wall of sand more than 100m high swallowed a city on the fringes of the Gobi Desert in north-western China, in scenes reminiscent of a disaster film.

Dunhuang, a tourist draw with a colourful history as a Silk Road outpost, momentarily disappeared in the dust clouds as the storm hit on Sunday (July 25).

A resident surnamed Zhang told local media Jimu News that the sandstorm came abruptly and swept through the city in five or six minutes.

"I couldn't see the sun," he said, adding that the city in Gansu province had not experienced such a sandstorm in several years.

"At first I was enveloped in the sandstorm's yellow dust, then it turned red and finally black."

Dunhuang is home to several major tourist attractions, including the Mogao Caves, a Unesco World Heritage site with ancient Buddhist carvings and striking desert land forms.

Sandstorms are common in the region each spring but rare in the summer, according to state-run news agency China News Service.

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