Beijing residents woke up on Monday to find their city blanketed in choking brown dust as a massive sandstorm hit northern China and Mongolia.
The China Meteorological Administration said the storm, caused by winds blowing from Mongolia, was the country’s strongest sandstorm in the past decade.
In Mongolia, at least six people have been killed in the snow and dust storms in the past few days, the country’s Emergency Management Office said on Monday. Authorities were still searching for 81 people who went missing.
Beijing’s air quality index reached the maximum reading of 500 on Monday morning, and residents were advised to stay indoors.
On social media, people shared photos of skyscrapers, parks, and the Forbidden City shrouded in dust. Some jokingly called the orange sky “cyberpunk style.”
Some users on Weibo said that scenes from Beijing look lifted straight out of Blade Runner 2049.
The capital city, with a population of 22 million, regularly suffers from sandstorms in the spring, due to winds from the Gobi Desert and severe deforestation in northern China.
The concentration of coal-burning heavy industries, such as steel manufacturing, in the surrounding regions have also contributed to smog in Beijing, which has caused lung diseases and become a major complaint from the public.
The government has tried to ease the air pollution by promoting clean energy and rebuilding forests in the north, although the meteorological administration says the plants are not able to counter strong sandstorms.
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