Weatherman issues alert as wall of sand engulfs Chinese town

An aerial photo taken on Sunday showing a sandstorm engulfing a village in Linze county in China's north-western Gansu province. The country experiences huge dust storms each spring that lift sand from the Gobi Desert and dump it onto cities as far a
An aerial photo taken on Sunday showing a sandstorm engulfing a village in Linze county in China's north-western Gansu province. The country experiences huge dust storms each spring that lift sand from the Gobi Desert and dump it onto cities as far away as Shandong on the eastern coast. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • A towering wall of sand blanketed factories and apartment blocks in north-western China's Gansu province as seasonal sandstorms barrelled across the country, causing air pollution and traffic accidents.

Aerial images showed an apocalyptic scene as a billowing cloud of yellow dust smothered Gansu's Linze county on Sunday.

China's national observatory on Monday issued a blue alert for sandstorms across the northern part of the country.

State media CCTV reported multiple car accidents in the province caused by low visibility, while meteorologists have warned people to stay indoors and keep their windows shut, ahead of more storms expected yesterday.

Floating sand and dust were also expected to hit parts of Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Shandong.

China has a four-tier colour-coded weather warning system for sandstorms, with red representing the most severe, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

The country suffers from enormous dust storms each spring that lift sand from the Gobi Desert and dump it onto cities as far away as Shandong on the eastern coast.

A sandstorm that pushed air pollution levels off the charts hit Beijing last month, turning the sky a dark yellow and forcing airlines to cancel hundreds of flights.

It was the worst sandstorm in a decade to hit the Chinese capital, which has pinned hopes of rebuilding a natural barrier to such phenomena on intensive tree replanting in stripped forest areas, also known as the "green great wall".

Beijing said last year that it expected fewer and weaker sandstorms to hit northern China due to the reforestation efforts.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2021, with the headline 'Weatherman issues alert as wall of sand engulfs Chinese town'. Subscribe