Wuhan, one of China’s most populous cities, and several other areas in Hubei province were engulfed by a mysterious fog on Monday, June 11, according to state-run media reports and posts on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging site.
Officials in Hubei said the gray haze plaguing Wuhan, a city of 9 million people, was caused by farmers burning straw, and told residents to stay indoors to avoid inhaling it, according to Xinhua news agency, a regime mouthpiece.
Some reports, however, suggested an industrial accident was the culprit of the thick yellow haze.
Louisa Lim, a Beijing-based correspondent with NPR, said via her Twitter account that the French Embassy in Wuhan said the pollution came from a “chemical source, maybe chlorine,” but on Monday, the embassy had since “expunged” that information.
The French Embassy in Wuhan said on Monday afternoon that “the origin of the thick cloud covering the city … is at present unknown,” adding that people should “limit the use of air conditioning.”
A statement from the Hubei Environmental Department obtained by Xinhua said the air quality had nothing to do with any nearby industrial accidents. The poor air quality, it said, was caused by the burning of organic matter, particularly wheat straw.
Xinhua added that many farmers in the nearby area burn crops that were discarded after the harvesting season finished.
Wuhan residents told the AFP news agency that the fog had a gray-yellow hue, with a slight green coloring in some areas. Photos published in various media agencies showed the yellowish fog hanging over the city, with residents covering their faces with a mask or their hands.
“I looked out of the window of my office and I could not believe my eyes,” Wuhan resident Li Yunzhong told the news agency. “At first I thought it was going to rain. In 31 years in Wuhan I have never known anything like it. We are very worried because we do not know what it is.”
Another resident, who called herself Ms. Li, told The Epoch Times that they heard rumors that an explosion at the Wuhan Chemical Plant caused a chlorine gas leak, which contributed to the thick haze over the city.
Wuhan’s haze bore similarities to the fog that descended over Nanjing on Sunday, the state-owned Global Times reported. The Nanjing Environmental Protection Bureau said that on Saturday night, the air pollution index jumped to 478, making it the most polluted of 120 Chinese cities using that particular pollution index.Chinese authorities said the fog was caused by farmers burning massive amounts of straw. Zhang Jianyong, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Times that even if the pollution was caused by straw smoke “the negative impact of these air pollutants on human health is similar to smoking several packs of cigarettes when people are exposed to it.”
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