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Commonwealth Games 2002

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BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Friday, 22 March, 2002, 07:33 GMT
Chinese dust storms spread
Pedestrians in South Korea's capital Seoul
South Korea sent children and the elderly indoors
Dust storms whipped up in China's arid north have closed primary schools in South Korea and reached as far as Russia's Pacific port of Vladivostok.

In South Korea's capital Seoul, children and the elderly were advised to stay indoors in case of breathing problems, amid the worst dust storm in many years.

In Vladivostok, the storm was reported to have shrouded the city in clouds of sand and yellow rain.

Chinese women wearing plastic bags to protect their hair and faces
In China, pedestrians used any protection
The dust storm was first reported in China's capital Beijing on Wednesday. State-controlled media said it was the worst in a decade and affected 100 million people across the country's north.

It is being blamed on arid weather, the ploughing up of pasture land for agriculture and prevailing winds.

Dust storms affect the region each year, though a severe summer drought in northern China has made this year's problem worse.

In Seoul, people rushed for cover using handkerchiefs and masks to shield their faces.

Primary schools and kindergartens in the capital and central west-coast provinces were closed, though they were expected to reopen on Saturday.

About 35 domestic flights were cancelled, after 70 had to be called off on Thursday.

Environmental fears

China's government has vowed to try and deal with the problem.

The Chinese capital Beijing is now less than 250-kilometres from the encroaching desert, prompting alarm from officials and from the public.

Experts have warned that sandstorms could be a major problem for Beijing when it hosts the 2008 Olympics.

The government has pledged $6.8bn (56.8bn Yuan) on an environmental programme which includes planting a green belt of trees around the capital.

See also:

20 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Sandstorms choke Beijing
12 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
China launches major anti-pollution drive
15 Jul 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Beijing celebrates Olympic image
27 Feb 01 | Media reports
China on sandstorm alert
17 Nov 00 | Asia Pacific
China's environmental challenge
06 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
China battles against sand invasion
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