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Beijing under three-day red alert as smog envelops city

It is the first time the air pollution alert was upgraded to its highest level.

By Ed Adamczyk
Beijing under three-day red alert as smog envelops city
Beijing is regularly struck by air pollution, which some scientists say kills 4,000 residents per day. For the first time on Monday, the city issued a three day red alert, closing schools, factories and construction sites. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

BEIJING, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Heavy smog in Beijing prompted the city to issue its first red alert Monday, a three-day closing of factories, construction sites and schools.

The highest level of the four-tier alert indicates a severe air pollution problem is expected to last at least three days. The smog is expected to dissipate when a predicted cold front arrives Thursday.

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"Coal-fired power plants are the major culprit at this point," state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua reported. While Beijing attempts to reduce its reliance on coal, surrounding regions still heavily rely on it, and some scientists blame air pollution for 4,000 deaths per day in Beijing.

"This is history. This is a precedent set," said Ma Jun of Beijing's Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Under the red alert, schools in the city of 23 million will close, construction site activity has been banned, some industrial sites will stop production and half of the city's 5 million cars will be off the road.

A similar situation, earlier in December, showed readings of hazardous airborne particles reached levels 40 times higher than those regarded as safe by the World Health Organization. Government response was criticized as inadequate, and Monday's emergency alert is regarded as a reaction to that crisis.

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