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China turning to artificial rain to clear Beijing air after choking dust storm
The Associated Press (apwire)     Print Article 
Published 2006-04-18 14:30 (KST)   
JOE McDONALD

BEIJING

Beijing was preparing Tuesday to use artificial rain-making to clear the air after a choking dust storm coated China's capital in yellow grit, prompting a health warning to keep children indoors, state media said.

The storm, reportedly the worst in at least five years, hit Beijing overnight Sunday, turning the sky yellow and forcing residents to dust and hose down cars and buildings.

Hospitals reported a jump in cases of breathing problems, state television said on its noon news.

The government was preparing to chemically seed clouds in an effort to produce rain to clear away the airborne dust, state TV said, citing the Central Meteorological Bureau. It didn't give any other details, and the bureau refused to release information.Suchstorms hit Beijing every spring, but newspapers said this week's was the heaviest since at least 2001. The Beijing Daily Messenger said some 300,000 tons of sand and dust was dumped on the city on Monday.

It was ''definitely one of the most serious pollution days in Beijing,'' said Yang Keming, a weather forecaster quoted by the China Daily newspaper. ''Small children had better stay at home during such days.'' Construction sites, a source of airborne dust most days, were told to cover exposed earth, state television said. It said some companies were fined for failing to obey the order.

The storms are expected to last through at least Wednesday in Beijing, neighboring Tianjin and a swath of north China stretching from Jilin province in the northeast through Inner Mongolia to Xinjiang in the desert northwest, the China Daily and other media said.

That region is home to hundreds of millions of people.

More storms were expected later in the week in Xinjiang and otherparts ofthe northwest, according to news reports.

Wind borne dust from China's northern plains often blows as far as South Korea and Japan and sometimes crosses the Pacific Ocean to reach California.

Japan's national Meteorological Agency said the dust has reached the country's north and west and warned of reduced visibility, but didn't say any health effects were expected.

In Beijing, a doctor in the respiratory ward of Chaoyang Hospital, one of the capital's biggest, said the number of patients with breathing problems Monday was two to three times normal. He refused to give his name or any other details.

Commuters wore surgical masks or wrapped their heads in scarves as protection against the dust.

China's government has been replanting ''green belts'' of trees throughout the north in an effort to trap the dust after decades when the storms worsened amid heavy tree-cutting.

Last week, the western Xinjiang region was hit by its worst sandstorm in decades, which killed one person and left thousands stranded after sand covered railways and high winds smashed train and car windows.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter The Associated Press

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