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Dust storms cast pall over north
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Northern parts of China, including Beijing and Tianjin, were enshrouded yesterday by the season's second and most severe dust storm, meteorological experts said.

A cold current from Inner Mongolia autonomous region swept dust above Beijing's northern and western suburbs early in the day before dissipating in the afternoon.

According to the China Meteorological Administration, the dust covered a large area in the northern part of the country including middle and western Inner Mongolia, northern parts of Shannxi and Shanxi provinces, Hebei province and the western area of northeast China.

Strong sandstorms hit parts of Inner Mongolia, with a visibility of less than 200 m.

Satellite photos and video showed the pall covered 830,000 sq m across eight provinces populated by 85 million people in north and northeast China.

"However, due to a fast blowing spurt of cold air, the sandstorm will become weaker and the dusty weather won't last for a long time," Sun Jun, chief forecaster with the China Meteorological Administration, told China Daily yesterday. "The weather will be fine, although the temperature will stay low with the highest about 12 degrees for the coming days."

Sun said the inclement weather wouldn't adversely impact the upcoming Olympic torch relay in Beijing, where hoods, veils, masks and goggles featured heavily among spring fashions yesterday.

Strong cold air blowing from the far northwest gathered up sand and dust along its way, Duan Li, a forecaster of Beijing Meteorological Observatory, explained.

Dust clouds are expected again today above the capital, but the weather was expected to completely clear by tomorrow, he said.

The first dusty day of the year hit Beijing on March 1 and the meteorological observatory estimates the capital will experience about 10 more this spring, the annual average.

(China Daily March 19, 2008)

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