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Sand China Worst*

Sand smothers Mongolia to Korea

April 8, 2002 Posted: 2:21 AM EDT (0621 GMT)

The sandstorm casts a gloomy shadow over Seoul

BEIJING, China -- Persisent sand storms that have plagued China are now creating mayhem and discomfort across much of northern Asia, including South Korea and Mongolia.

As temperatures plummeted, dust storms wreaked more havoc on northern China over the weekend and high winds sent grit whipping across Beijing on Monday, part of what meteorologists say is one of the dustiest springs in years.

Gusts strong enough to make walking difficult for elderly people blew across the capital Monday and doorways were filled with accumulations of dust several centimeters (inches) high.

Changchun, capital of northeastern China's Jilin province, was reported enveloped in dust Sunday -- as was most of the province, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Desert dust from China also polluted air and raised health concerns in South Korea, where authorities issued a "yellow dust" warning Monday.

People were advised to stay indoors. The Korea Airports Corp. said 12 domestic flights were canceled. International flights were not affected, they said.

Seasonal problem

Yang Zhidong, a Beijing meteorologist, was quoted as saying the weather was the "most serious" in years.

All flights in and out of Jilin were canceled, Xinhua said, and doctors were advising residents with any respiratory ailments to remain indoors.

The Inner Mongolia region and Liaoning and Hebei provinces were also hard-hit, the Beijing Morning Post reported Monday.

A cold snap also moved in Monday. Temperatures in Beijing, which topped 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius) last week, were down to 53 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius).

Dust storms, made worse by extensive deforestation, sweep across northern China each spring. The government is trying to mitigate the effects through massive tree-planting programs in the capital and across the northern plateau.

(Original Len: 2173 Condensed Len: 2473)

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