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Super smog hits, flights canceled

Published: Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 11:21 a.m. CDT

BEIJING (AP) — Visibility shrank to less than half a football field and small-particle pollution soared to a record 40 times higher than an international safety standard in one northern Chinese city as the region entered its high-smog season.

The manager for U.S. jazz singer Patti Austin, meanwhile, said the singer had canceled a concert in Beijing because of an asthma attack likely linked to pollution.

Winter typically brings the worst air pollution to northern China because of a combination of weather conditions and an increase in the burning of coal for homes and municipal heating systems, which usually starts on a specific date. For the large northern city of Harbin, the city’s heating systems kicked in on Sunday, and on Monday visibility there was less than 50 meters (yards), according to state media.

“I couldn’t see anything outside the window of my apartment, and I thought it was snowing,” Wu Kai, 33, a housewife and mother of a baby boy, said in a telephone interview from Harbin. “Then I realized it wasn’t snow. I have not seen the sun for a long time.”

A safe level under WHO guidelines is 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

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