Children ordered indoors in smog alert

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AUTHORITIES in Shanghai have ordered schoolchildren indoors and halted all construction as China’s financial hub suffered one its worst bouts of air pollution.

Visibility was reduced to a few dozen yards, while flights were delayed and the city’s spectacular skyline was obscured.

The financial district was shrouded in a yellow haze, and noticeably fewer people walked the city’s streets. Vehicle traffic also was thinner, as authorities pulled 30 per cent of government vehicles from the roads. They also banned fireworks and public sporting events.

“I feel like I’m living in clouds of smog,” said Zheng Qiaoyun, a local resident who kept her six-month-old son at home. “I have a headache, I’m coughing, and it’s hard to breathe on my way to my office.”

Shanghai’s concentration of tiny, harmful particles reached extremely hazardous levels 25 times above recommended safety limits which were the highest since the city began recording such data last December.

The dirty air that has gripped Shanghai and its neighbouring provinces for days is attributed to coal burning, car exhausts, factory pollution and weather patterns, and is a stark reminder that pollution is a serious challenge in China.

Beijing, the capital, has seen extremely heavy smog several times over the past year. In the far north-eastern city of Harbin, some monitoring sites reported rates 40 times above safety levels in October, when the winter heating season kicked off.

The environmental group Greenpeace said slow-moving and low-hanging air masses had carried factory emissions from Jiangsu, Anhui and Shandong provinces to Shanghai. But it said the root of the problem lay with the excessive industrial emissions in the region, including Zhejiang province to the south.