Smog lingers despite rain in Beijing

Updated: 2013-01-31 23:35


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BEIJING - Heavy smog that has choked Beijing for the last five days weakened slightly on Thursday due to a light rainfall, although the capital's air remains heavily polluted.

Average precipitation was 0.1 mm from Wednesday evening to Thursday morning, the Beijing Meteorological Bureau said.

The city's air quality index (AQI) fell due to the rain but was still above 200, which indicates serious pollution.

The bureau has issued an alert for icy roads, advising children and the elderly to stay indoors.

As of Thursday noon, there had been at least 2,000 reports of vehicle accidents, with at least two people dead, according to Beijing Traffic Management Bureau.

Most of the accidents were scratches and rear-end collisions, caused by icy roads as well as poor visibility in the smoggy weather, said the bureau.

Beijing traffic authorities have started emergency response measures due to snow, strengthening patrols and clearing icy roads.

In many other parts of north and east China, lingering smog has disrupted flights and traffic.

Thirty flights were canceled and 78 flights were delayed Thursday morning at an airport in Tianjin Municipality, located just east of Beijing.

Visibility was reduced to less than 50 meters in many parts of east China's Shandong Province, the provincial meteorological station said Thursday.

The National Meteorological Center rescinded its yellow smog alert early Thursday. Smog in central and east China will be dispersed by a cold front due to arrive on Friday, it said.

The Beijing municipal government decided Tuesday to implement stricter measures to reduce pollutants, including suspending the use of 30 percent of the municipal government's vehicles and halting production at 103 heavily polluting companies.

On Wednesday, production was halted at TOTO, a company that produces cleaning products in northwest Beijing.

"The suspension will cause losses of 1.8 million yuan ($286,000) each day. We received notice that the suspension will last until Friday," said Han Yong, the company's deputy general manager.

"But for the sake of Beijing's air quality, we must stop. This is a social responsibility that our company should shoulder," he said.

A nearby factory that manufactures building materials also had its production suspended.

However, not everyone has abided by the measures. More than 800 government vehicles that are supposed to be suspended are still in use, municipal traffic authorities said.

Several construction sites that were ordered to suspend their work failed to do so on Wednesday.

The meteorological authorities forecast that the smog, which has covered 1.15 million square kilometers of China, will gradually disperse due to rain and snow in central and eastern regions from Thursday through Saturday.