Monday, March 22, 2010

China's sandstorms blast Beijing with dust, sand

clipped from www.ajc.com

BEIJING — The dust works its way through keyholes and window frames, and smells like a filthy brew of dirt, smoke and metallic particles. The sky turns magenta and whole buildings disappear. Eyes tear up and throats get sore from coughing.

Tourists and residents wear masks as they visit Tiananmen gate during a sandstorm in Beijing, China, Monday, March 22, 2010. Cities across China are being battered by spring sandstorms, forcing residents to cover their faces with masks and scarves to protect against the swirling grit. (AP Photo/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Northern China's spring sandstorms blew in with particular ferocity over the weekend, bringing misery to people working outdoors Monday in Beijing and across a wide swath of the country.

"It gets in your throat, under your clothes, in your bed," said Beijing street sweeper Xue Yuan. "I hate it, but there's really nothing you can do."

The storms are a product of worsening desertification in Inner Mongolia and other Gobi Desert regions hundreds of miles to the north and west of Beijing caused by overgrazing, deforestation, drought and urban sprawl. Strong winds pick up the loose dust and dirt, mixing them with industrial pollution.

Tourists and residents wear masks as they visit Tiananmen gate during a sandstorm in Beijing, China, Monday, March 22, 2010. Cities across China are being battered by spring sandstorms, forcing residents to cover their faces with masks and scarves to protect against the swirling grit. (AP Photo/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Tourists wear masks as they visit Tiananmen Square during a sandstorm in Beijing, China, Monday, March 22, 2010. Cities across China are being battered by spring sandstorms, forcing residents to cover their faces with masks and scarves to protect against the swirling grit. (AP Photo/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)
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