(Beijing) Air pollution reached very high levels on Wednesday in Beijing due to a sandstorm, which covered other places in the country with an orange haze that was harmful to health.

The official air quality index in the Chinese capital was stuck at 500, the maximum level recorded, synonymous with “serious pollution”. Unofficial readings reported a level twice as high.

Beijing authorities have issued weather warnings and urged people to reduce outdoor activities as visibility fell Wednesday morning to less than a kilometer in some places.

In parts of northern and northwest China, including the semi-desert region of Inner Mongolia, high winds and dust have turned the sky an eerie orange color.

Due in particular to the sand suspended in the air, visibility was sometimes reduced to a few hundred meters.

According to the authorities, this pollution is mainly due to PM10 particles (with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers), which can be inhaled and aggravate respiratory problems.

The inhabitants of the affected areas must “ protect themselves well from the wind and sand and close doors and windows ”, ​​indicated the meteorological services, which advise wearing a mask outside.

Children, seniors and people with respiratory allergies should “limit their outings”, they also stressed.

Sandstorms are common in northern China in the spring, when the wind kicks up dust in this relatively dry part of the country.