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China cities choked by bad air red alert sounded

Twenty-three cities in China, including capital Beijing, have activated red alert and enforced odd-even rules to restrict traffic as the country tries to address severe pollution woes after the sky turned grey across much of northern part of the country on Saturday.

The measures include restrictions on cars on roads, suspension of construction and classes for kindergartens and primary schools as well as guidelines to reduce emissions for factories.

Beijing activated its first red alert for smog this winter as the air began to turn hazy on Friday.

Kindergartens and primary schools have been ordered to suspend classes from Monday to Wednesday in Beijing due to the persistent heavy smog.

All road construction and maintenance sites have been ordered to stop work.

The PM 2.5 density exceeded 200 in the downtown areas of the capital, indicating heavily polluted air, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre.

Beijing’s environmental and housing authorities have strengthened inspection of vehicles, construction sites and factories, punishing those failing to meet the requirements under the red alert.

The air quality index (AQI) readings at some sites in Tianjin, a northern port city, neighbouring Beijing, exceeded 300 on Saturday morning, indicating serious air pollution, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Tianjin dispatched government inspection teams to check whether response measures had been implemented by companies, construction sites and drivers.

The smog is supposed to get dispersed by Wednesday night by cold air. Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck institute have estimated that smog has led to 1.4 million premature deaths per year in China, while the nonprofit group Berkeley Earth in California has had a higher figure, 1.6 million.

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