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New sandstorm blankets China

March 23, 2010

Global Times, March 23 2010

By An Baijie

While the year's first sandstorm is still blowing south toward Taiwan and
Fujian provinces, a second gust of dust and grit followed in its wake
Monday, blotting out the Beijing skyline with low visibility and severe air
pollution.

The National Meteorology Center (NMC) reported Monday morning that a new
cold wave swept across Beijing with strong winds and swirling sand,
darkening the sky of the capital city and coating cars with a thick layer of
grime.

Besides Beijing, the southern part of Shaanxi Province, the northwestern
part of Hebei Province, and Shanxi Province were also hit by a second wave
of sand and dust Monday, according to the NMC report.

Hangzhou in East China's Zhejiang Province was blanketed in dusty haze
Monday, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Fujian Province, on southeast
China's coast, was also shrouded in gritty pollution. Visibility in many
provincial cities was reduced to about 3,000 meters.

Tu Jingfang, a pediatrician at the Jiangsu Hospital of Chinese and Western
Medicine, said there was a sharp increase in the number of asthma patients
over the weekend, Xinhua reported.

In Hong Kong, the air pollution index in some districts exceeded 400.

Beijing was hit by the worst sandstorm of the year last Saturday. High winds
drove the blinding sandstorm southward Sunday and caused serious dust
pollution in Taiwan.

The dust pollution index in Taipei rose to twice the normal level Sunday,
which made breathing difficult.

The sandstorm was dampened by rainy weather in the northeast Yilan county of
Taiwan Sunday morning, leaving dusty raindrops there, according to a report
by China News Service.

"Will we become Terra-Cotta Warriors if we stay in the rain for a day?" the
report quoted a local resident as saying.

The sandstorm caused so many respiratory problems that the number of
patients at the Mackay Memorial Hospital of Taiwan increased more than 30
percent Sunday afternoon, Xinhua reported.

Cheng Ming-dean, director of the forecast center of the Central Meteorology
Bureau of Taiwan, said the sandstorm that struck Taiwan originated in barren
areas of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, according to the report.

Yang Weixi, chief engineer at the sand prevention and control office of the
State Administration of Forestry, told the Global Times that the sandstorm
originated on the windswept Gobi desert in the People's Republic of
Mongolia.

"Winds resulting from a Siberian cold wave, combined with rising
temperatures in January could no longer let the dust stay in place," Yang
said.

Monitoring results showed that the overall growth of national grassland
vegetation in 2009 was slightly less than in 2008 due to dry weather. The
number of livestock grazing in key natural grasslands was higher than 30
percent, according to a report made by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The national grassland still faces the stern reality of degradation,
desertification, and salinization, said the report.

In an effort to control desertification, the local government of Tibet vowed
to improve desert areas of more than 0.9 million hectares over 20 years by
various measures such as planting more trees and grass, according to a
Monday report in the Tibet Daily.
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