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Major sandstorm strikes northwest China

BEIJING, April 24 (UPI) -- A sandstorm struck northwest China, forcing schools to close and airlines to cancel flights, officials said.

The storm Thursday caused schools in Dunhuang to suspend classes.

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Airlines delayed or canceled flights in the Dunhuang area and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region capital of Hohhot, China's official state-run Xinhua news agency reported Friday.

The National Meteorological Center said the sandstorm also affected the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region along with the provinces of Gansu and Shaanxi.

Gao Hua of the Dunhuang Municipal Forestry Bureau said the storm had caused problems for agricultural systems,

"Agriculture might suffer serious damage from the sandstorm. I saw the strong wind swept away many greenhouse roofs, cotton seedlings and young grapes on the vine. Some trees and electrical poles were broken," Gao told Xinhua.

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