Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Airports, schools remain closed as thick smog blankets Chinese city of Harbin

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Tue October 22, 2013
A woman wearing a mask walks along a road as smog engulfs Harbin, China, on Tuesday, October 22. Expressways, schools and an airport were closed after smog disrupted one of northeast China's most heavily populated areas. A woman wearing a mask walks along a road as smog engulfs Harbin, China, on Tuesday, October 22. Expressways, schools and an airport were closed after smog disrupted one of northeast China's most heavily populated areas.
HIDE CAPTION
Heavy smog covers Chinese cities
Heavy smog covers Chinese cities
Heavy smog covers Chinese cities
Heavy smog covers Chinese cities
Heavy smog covers Chinese cities
Heavy smog covers Chinese cities
Heavy smog covers Chinese cities
Heavy smog covers Chinese cities
Heavy smog covers Chinese cities
Heavy smog covers Chinese cities
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Visibility in some central areas of the city down to less than 20 meters (65 feet), Xinhua said
  • Pollution levels 30 times the World Health Organization's recommended standard
  • Government officials blame lack of wind as well as farmers burning crop stalks

(CNN) -- Schools, major roads and an airport remained closed Tuesday, as a thick cloud of filthy smog smothered the northeastern city of Harbin.

Meteorologists in the city, which is famous for its annual ice festival, issued a red alert for fog at 5 a.m. Tuesday, with visibility in some central areas of the city down to less than 20 meters (65 feet), the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Video from China's state-run CCTV showed some people -- obscured by smog even just steps away -- wearing masks over their mouths as they walked in the province. Some drivers who braved the roads flashed hazard lights.

Kindergartens, primary and junior middle schools were ordered to suspend classes for a second day, while Harbin Taiping International Airport remained closed -- with 250 flights canceled on Monday alone, according to Chinese state media.

China needs smog-free air in a can

Hazardous levels

China's toxic smog problem
Thick smog blankets city, closes schools
On China: China's role in climate change

Pollution levels remained far above international standards, as the city's monitoring stations on Tuesday showed that concentrations of PM2.5 -- the tiny airborne particles considered most harmful to health -- were more than 30 times the World Health Organization's recommended standard, the state-run China Daily reported.

Could smog choke China's sporting ambitions?

Government officials blamed the smog on a lack of wind and farmers burning crop stalk after their autumn harvest, though the city's coal-burning heating system, which was recently started, is also a likely factor. Harbin's environmental bureau has also conducted checks on factories known to discharge pollutants, the China Daily report added.

Extreme conditions

Fang Lijuan, the city's chief meteorologist, said it was very rare for the city to suffer such extreme conditions.

"There has been no strong wind and the level of humidity is high," she said, in quotes carried by China Daily.

Residents of this city of 10 million people were also surprised by the thick smog.

Living with an 'air-pocalypse'

"The pollution is indeed very bad, we can only see things within 100 meters, and yesterday it was 20-30 meters. We can smell the smoke in the air," one man, who identified himself as Mr. Ren, told CNN.

"The smog started about four days ago ... I heard all face masks in Harbin are sold out. People are very angry about this and there is a lot of discussion over the Internet.

"The main reason is Harbin started its heating and the main resource is coal. Every year at this time, the air quality is bad -- but this year is especially polluted."

Can social media clear air over China?

Naming and shaming

Last month China announced plans to start listing its top ten most air-polluted cities every month in the hopes that national humiliation will push positive environmental action.

"We must put air quality control as an ecological red line for economic management and social development," China's Vice Premier Zhang Gao Li said in a statement as he announced the new policy at the 18th Air Pollution Control Conference in Beijing.

Chinese officials did not say when the first list would be announced, but the northern megacities of Beijing and Tianjin, as well as the surrounding provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Shandong have signed onto an official plan to speed up air pollution control measures.

China's capital often suffers with hazardous pollution levels and smog. An explosion in the number of cars on the roads, as well as industrial pollution are seen as the main contributors.

What Beijing looks like on a gloriously clear day

CNN's Feng Ke in Beijing contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:57 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
Over 200 Chinese villagers in Sichuan province have signed a petition to banish a HIV-positive eight-year-old boy, state media reported.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane, forcing the Nanjing-bound plane to turn back to Bangkok.
updated 12:03 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
updated 7:21 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Like Beijing today, Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons.
updated 12:42 AM EST, Sat December 6, 2014
At the height of his power, Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
updated 3:26 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
updated 1:48 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
updated 3:55 AM EST, Wed December 3, 2014
Despite an anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past 12 months.
updated 7:01 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
A 24-hour Taipei bookstore is a hangout for hipsters as well as bookworms.
updated 8:53 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT