|Disgusted Harbin residents complain of burning smell in darkened city
Thick smog enveloped Harbin for a third day today and residents complained of a burning smell. Schools and a regional airport was shut and poor visibility forced ground transport to a halt in places.
Images from the northeastern city of more than 10 million and the host of a popular annual ice festival, showed roads shrouded in smog. Visibility in some areas was reduced to less than 50 meters, AFP reports.
Flights remained severely delayed, after more than 250 flights were cancelled at the local airport on Monday, according to Chinese media.
Air pollution levels eased in the afternoon but remained as much as 15 times the levels deemed safe by the World Health Organization.
Figures from monitoring stations showed that concentrations of PM2.5, the tiny airborne particles considered most harmful to health, averaged 266 micrograms per cubic meter in the city, with one station showing 415.
That was down from the morning level of 822 micrograms per cubic meter and Monday's level of 1,000. The WHO's recommended standard is 25.
The overall air quality index had improved to a measure of 397, or “severely polluted.’’
Earlier today, the figure exceeded 500, the highest level on the Chinese scale.
Residents of the far northeastern city described a smog that began choking people as much as a week ago but worsened considerably on Sunday night.
“You could feel the burning smell in the air, and on the second day the thick fog just blocked your way, keeping you from seeing anything,'' said Song Ting, a 21-year-old student in Harbin. “It's still disgusting.''
Zhao Yao, a 25-year-old IT engineer, said: “You feel sick when you breathe. You can't see many people on the street now, and some people wear three masks when going out.''
The smog in Harbin came as it activated its public heating system before the icy winter, state media said.
The issue causes significant public anger and several Chinese newspapers carried images from Harbin on their front pages today.