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Heavy smog closes schools, airport in northeast China

Story highlights

  • Taiping International Airport in Harbin is closed, Xinhua news agency reports
  • The fog, which began Sunday, is expected to last into Tuesday
  • Visibility less than 50 meters (164 feet) in downtown Harbin, Xinhua reports

Schoolchildren were home, planes were grounded and some highways were closed because of heavy smog in one of northeast China's most heavily populated areas Monday.

The smog was thick enough that visibility was less than 50 meters (164 feet) in downtown Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, and it prompted authorities to close Harbin's Taiping International Airport, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

All primary and middle schools in Harbin also were closed due to the smog, which began a day earlier, according to Xinhua.

Some public buses did not run in Harbin, so many people -- because they walked or sought other means of transportation -- were late to work, the news outlet reported.

Video from China's state-run CCTV showed some people -- obscured by smog even just steps away -- wearing masks over their mouths as they walked in the province. Some drivers who braved the roads flashed hazard lights.

The smog is forecast to continue into Tuesday, Xinhua reported.

    "The pollution is indeed very bad, we can only see things within 100 meters, and yesterday it was 20-30 meters. We can smell the smoke in the air," one resident of Harbin, who identified himself as Mr. Ren, told CNN.

    "The smog started about four days ago ... I heard all face masks in Harbin are sold out. People are very angry about this and there is a lot of discussion over the Internet.

    "The main reason is Harbin started its heating and the main resource is coal. Every year at this time, the air quality is bad -- but this year is especially polluted."