Beijing and several provinces across China are experiencing intense sandstorms, leading to drastically reduced visibility and soaring air pollution levels, according to Chinese weather authorities.
Dense clouds of orange dust have blanketed the region, prompting the Central Meteorological Observatory to issue yellow warning signals from Wednesday to early Thursday morning for Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Shandong, Henan, Jiangsu, Anhui, and Hubei provinces.
Beijing's air quality index (AQI) hit 500, with PM10 particle concentrations reaching 1,667 micrograms per cubic meter by 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday, far exceeding the World Health Organization's daily average guideline of 45 micrograms per cubic meter. The Beijing Ecological Environment Monitoring Center described the current sandstorm as "the most severe sandstorm to date this year."
Weather authorities have advised residents to avoid outdoor activities and urged drivers to remain cautious and reduce speed due to low visibility. The sandstorms, which originated in Mongolia on Tuesday, are expected to move southwards and weaken gradually. Beijing and northern China regularly face sandstorms in the spring months, exacerbated by deforestation and industrial activities in the region.