China's environmental authorities have placed 24 cities on red pollution alert, strengthening inspections and enforcements to fight air pollution violations.
According to the China.org.cn, the smog prompted 24 cities including Shijiazhuang and Baoding in Hebei province to issue red alerts and 21 cities such as Beijing and Tianjin to issue orange alerts. At the same time, 16 cities including Xi'an in northwestern Shaanxi Province are on yellow alert.
Heavy smog was expected to remain until Thursday, January 5, 2017, when cold winds were expected, according to the National Meteorological Center of the China Meteorological Administration.
In Beijing, the alert, which was originally effective from Friday to Sunday, will not be lifted until Wednesday midnight, according to a statement issued by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. Air quality will improve today because of weak cold air, but will return to the medium or heavy air pollution level on Tuesday and Wednesday, the statement said.
Under the emergency plan, heavy polluting gasoline-fuelled vehicles and trucks carrying construction garbage are banned from roads. Some manufacturing firms are required to cut production.
According to the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau, heavy smog had reduced visibility to around 50 meters (164 feet) on some expressways of the capital city. Sections of eight expressways had been closed by 9:30 local time on Sunday.
At Zhengding International Airport in Shijiazhuang, 88 flights were canceled and 40 delayed by 16:30 local time on Sunday due to thick fog and light snow.
Over 300 flights were canceled in Tianjin.
NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Caption by Pola Lem. Acquired: December 6, 2016
A total of 10 inspection teams from the ministry have been dispatched to different provincial regions to supervise the implementation of environmental measures taken by key industrial enterprises, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said.
Measures such as suspension of school classes and restriction of cars will be adopted in red alert areas.
China has a four-tier warning system for severe pollution. Red is the most serious, followed by orange, yellow and blue.
Featured image credit: NASA / Earth Observatory. Acquired: December 6, 2016