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Wednesday, December 9, 2015, 13:11

Smog engulfs Beijing as red alert in force

By Agencies

Smog engulfs Beijing as red alert in force
A woman covers her face with a mask as she rushes to a subway station on a heavily polluted day in Beijing Dec 8, 2015. (AP P hoto / Andy Wong)

BEIJING - Unhealthy smog hovered over downtown Beijing as limits on cars, factories and construction sites kept pollution from spiking even higher Wednesday, on the second of three days of restrictions triggered by the city's first red alert for smog.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection has demanded local environment protection authorities punish enterprises that had fail to initiate emergency response plans to cope with smog.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the ministry said found some polluters had continued to operate after teams were dispatched to areas around Beijing to ensure emergency plans were in place.

According to the statement, illegal emissions, coal-burning dust, nonpoint source air pollution and failure to react approriately to the emergency response plan have been the main problems.

Cars with even-numbered license plates were kept off roads, and schools and constructions sites remained closed. Far fewer than usual pedestrians walked the streets — many of them wearing white masks to filter the air.

Pollution levels midday in downtown Beijing were mostly between 250 and 300 on the city's air quality index — suggesting the restrictions were having an effect. The city's alert was triggered by a forecast Monday that pollution levels would be above 300 for three days straight.

The index is strongly linked to levels of the dangerous tiny particles PM2.5, which at midday ranged from about 200 to 250 micrograms per cubic meter downtown — or 8 to 10 times the safe level recommended by the World Health Organization.

The Chinese capital's latest bout of smog has triggered its first red alert under a 2-year-old system of alerts and restrictions to deal with persistent contamination.

A car paint workshop in downtown Beijing was sealed on Tuesday by the city environment protection agency following public complaints.

In neighboring Hebei Province, the environment protection authority found a dozen coal-burning enterprises were operating illegally.

Inspection teams discovered that nonpoint source air pollution, such as road and construction site dust, remained severe in central China's Henan Province and eastern province of Shandong.

Several cities in Henan were reported for failing to react according to the emergency response plan and several construction sites were still in operation in Shandong.

The Ministry has called strengthened monitor on the air quality of areas around Beijing and tougher supervision on the implementation of  emergency response plans.

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