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Thu Jan 29 16:22:07 SAST 2015

Highways close as heavy smog chokes Beijing

Sapa-dpa | 17 February, 2013 12:17
A woman wearing a mask walks past the Drum Tower of Beijing February 1, 2013.
Image by: SUZIE WONG / REUTERS

Heavy smog again shrouded Beijing and neighbouring provinces Sunday, disrupting airline flights and halting highway traffic, officials said.

Visibility fell to 5-10 metres at Capital International Airport, the Beijing Environmental Protection Monitoring Centre said.

Stretches of expressways linking to Kaifeng, Harbin, Shanghai and Tianjin were temporarily closed, authorities of the Beijing municipal traffic administration said.

The provinces of Tianjin, Hebei and Henan were also affected by heavy smog on Sunday.

Smog traditionally worsens in winter with rising heating demand. Coal fuels the country's rapid industrialization, with lax environmental law enforcement and escalating car ownership exacerbating air quality problems.

Sales of Japanese air purifiers and smog masks reportedly skyrocketed in January after local media broke a decade-long taboo by reporting more openly on the city's record-breaking pollution.

The air-quality monitor operated by the US embassy in Beijing recorded an "unhealthy" level.

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