Beijing sandstorm Mongolia
Beijing has an apocalyptic look on Monday. Photo: NOEL CELIS / AFP

In Photos: Massive Sandstorm Turns Beijing Orange

Scenes from Beijing look straight out of Blade Runner 2049. 
March 15, 2021, 7:25am

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. 

Woman cycles during Beijing sandstorm

A woman cycles along a street during the sandstorm in Beijing. Photo: Noel Celis / AFP

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.  

The sandstorm has turned the sky orange in Beijing

The sandstorm has turned the sky orange in Beijing. Photo: Greg Baker / AFP

Beijing’s air quality index reached the maximum reading of 500 on Monday morning, and residents were advised to stay indoors. 

A couple poses for wedding photos outside the Forbidden City during the sandstorm

A couple poses for wedding photos outside the Forbidden City during the sandstorm. Photo: Wang Zhao / AFP

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. 

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A crow flies over the Forbidden City. Photo: Wang Zhao / AFP

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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