Schools have been closed and cars forced off the road as China’s capital issues its first-ever red alert for pollution.
In an unprecedented situation, labelled ‘airpocalypse’ by Greenpeace, Beijing is shrouded by a dangerous smog, with pollution levels more than 25 times more than the safe level.
The World Health Organisation declares a safe level of PM2.5 – harmful microscopic particles that penetrate deep in the lungs – to be 25 micrograms per cubic metre.
But a reading from outside Beijing’s US embassy measures the levels at 634 micrograms per cubic metre, News Limited reports.
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) December 7, 2015
The red alert, which began on Tuesday morning and will last until midday Thursday, is the highest of the country’s four-tiered warning system and is reserved for when severe smog is expected to last more than 72 hours.
Half of Beijing’s private cars and almost a third of government vehicles have been ordered off the road.
Construction has been halted, some factories have been ordered to stop operations, and fireworks and barbeques have been banned.
Beijing’s Environmental Protection Bureau urged schools to close and recommended residents “to the best of their ability reduce outdoor activities”.
“If you are engaging in outdoor activities you should wear a mask or take other protective measures,” the organisation advised.