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    Vehicles drive on the 5th Ring Road in smog during morning rush hour on the fourth day after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing, China, December 19, 2016.

    Beijing Residents Struggling With Smog as City Placed on Red Alert

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    Since the Chinese capital was put on "red alert" over the air pollution on December 16, the city has been slowly sinking into the smog.

    BEIJING (Sputnik) — Beijing residents are looking forward to the Wednesday midnight when the alert will be lifted. According to the Chinese meteorologists, colder and windier weather will help chase the smog out of the city.

    The "red alert" announcement presupposes certain measures that include reduced traffic, as cars are considered one of the main causes of pollution. Schools and kindergartens are temporarily closed. Dust has to be sprayed off the roads at least once a day. All construction work is suspended and all activities at manufactures are put on hold.

    STORM IS COMING

    Four-level system of air pollution detection was introduced in China in 2013. According to the new rules, the local authorities issue "red alert" when thick smog endures for more than three days in a row, "orange alert" is issued when smog lasts three days, the yellow one is for two days and a blue one for 24 hours of smog.

    Beijing residents began to feel the nearing smog on Friday evening. On Saturday morning, a specific smell appeared in the air, close to that of a peat fire. As the smog is growing thicker, a special mist appears that, without a telling smell, would remind many of a fog. Smog, however, can be seen throughout the day, even when the weather is sunny and the sky is cloudless.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) standard for particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) is 25 micrograms per cubic meter. On Tuesday and Wednesday, this index stayed at 400-500, at the weekend it was over 200. The particles less than 2.5 microns can stay deep inside human lungs, lead to shortness of breath and many other serious health consequences.

    The Beijing Capital International Airport suffered its most difficult night on Tuesday, when more than 250 flights were canceled and more than 270 were delayed. Many aircraft headed for Beijing had to return or land at the nearby airports. According to the local media, the situation has begun to improve.

    The thick smog resulted in dangerous driving conditions. Beijing traffic authorities said that many highways and several stretches of ring roads were closed.

    Despite the restrictions on the number of the privately-owned vehicles on the roads, the traffic did not seem any less than usual. The drivers simply tried to slow down as the visibility grew worse.

    LIFE AS USUAL

    Even "red alert" could not completely interrupt the everyday life of the residents. Most of the adults still had to go to work, still had errands to run. The number of two-wheel vehicles did not decrease, but many of the people using bikes and bicycles were wearing special masks to protect themselves from pollution.

    The subway and other means of public transport experienced an influx of passengers, mostly due to car-owners forced to leave their vehicles at home.

    The trade continues in the streets of Beijing despite the smog, with lots of people gathering around street food vendors in the morning to get their breakfast.

    One of the vendors in the east of Beijing said that he was not afraid of working in the street in these conditions.

    "I was born in Beijing, I am not afraid of smog. It may be harmful, but the people keep on buying [my products]," the vendor told RIA Novosti correspondent.

    People continue smoking everywhere, completely undeterred, in the streets and even in the office buildings wallpapered with "No Smoking" posters.

    Chinese media published photos of Beijing’s most popular sights, which showed that the number of tourists did drop, but not significantly.

    MEANS OF COUNTERING AIR POLLUTION

    A special mask is one of the most popular anti-pollution contraptions in Beijing. These masks can be bought in large chain stores throughout the year. The supply and demand has not leapt, but during the smog the masks are relocated from personal hygiene isle to the cash registers.

    Beijing authorities are actively waging war on air pollution. The city government is planning to introduce strict control over upcoming construction projects and to create five ventilation corridors to fight the smog.

    The authorities are also planning to tighten the regulation on the transport, sale and use of coal in certain districts in the east and west of the city. About 400 Beijing suburbs will begin using gas instead. The smog problem is especially acute when the cold weather begins and the people have to start using heating.

    The Beijing government is planning to spend $2.5 billion dollars on protecting the environment.

    Local residents are waiting for the "red alert" to be canceled, but it is unclear how fast the thick smog will envelop the Chinese capital again.

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