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Last Updated: Monday, 3 March 2008, 11:45 GMT
China dust storm hits East Asia
Dust cloud over Busan, South Korea - 3 March 2008
The dust picks up toxins as it passes over Chinese factories

A huge cloud of choking dust is passing over South Korea as the first sand storm of the year blows in from China.

South Korea has ordered schools to close and drivers in south-west Japan have been warned about low visibility from the dust clouds.

Every spring brings "yellow dust" storms which blow sand from China's Gobi Desert over the Koreas and Japan.

The dust storms have become more deadly each year as they pass over China's industrial zones picking up toxins.

South Korea blames dozens of deaths every year on the storms, mostly of elderly people and those with respiratory problems.

South Korean authorities advised parents to keep younger children at home to avoid the dust.

"We have advised the closure because kindergarten, primary school students have weaker immune systems," Min Eyu-gi, an education official in the southern city of Busan, told Reuters news agency.

Seasonal winds lasting from late February to April or May combine with dry winter weather to pick up millions of tonnes of sand from China's northern deserts.

The storms turn the sky a yellow colour and coat everything in a layer of fine dust.

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