China issues smog alert: “it’s like a disaster movie”

Because of the devastating smog in eastern china, authorities in five provinces declared the second-highest alert level "orange. The number of people with respiratory illnesses in hospitals in shanghai rose significantly, state media reported. Sales of breathing masks and expensive air filters skyrocketed. "It stinks smoky. The air is really scratchy in the throat," said a woman in the harbor metropolis. "We have never experienced such smog here before."

While the air pollution in the capital beijing improved on sunday due to fresh wind, the situation in the provinces jiangsu, zhejiang, anhui, hebei and shandong in the eastern part of china was still bad. 360 million people live in the five provinces. "It's like a disaster movie," wrote one internet user.

Nanjing even declared the highest smog alert level "red" on saturday. In the provincial capital of jiangsu, the level of particularly dangerous fine dust particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers rose to 602 micrograms. That is 24 times the limit set by the world health organization. Visibility in nanjing was so bad that 60 flights had to be canceled. Schools and kindergartens closed since thursday.

In beijing, the load had been at the "dangerous" level of more than 400 until sunday morning. Then wind came up, so that the index dropped significantly. In the port city of shanghai, which had reached unbearable peak values on friday, air pollution was still at 484 micrograms on saturday, but by sunday evening had fallen back to a still "unhealthy" 181 micrograms.

"It wasn't so bad before," said a german man who lives in shanghai with his wife and two elementary-school-aged children. "We've been here four years now, but next year is the end," he said. "That's enough now. We don't know what we are doing to the children here."Managers of major german companies have complained since last winter's bad smog that they are having increasing problems getting germans to work in china.

"The smog is largely due to our current development model," said vice minister xie zhenhua of the national development and reform commission (NDRC), the top economic governance body, according to xinhua. Factories thought only of growing their production and ignored environmental protection.