Fierce Sandstorm Frightens Beijing Residents and Travelers

November 30, 2012 4:53 pm Last Updated: December 8, 2012 11:45 pm

A powerful and unseasonable sandstorm pounded Beijing’s north end Tuesday night, diverting air traffic and frightening residents, with gusts strong enough to fling stones through the air.

The Beijing Capital International Airport’s website reported that 42 flights were diverted to other airports on the evening of Nov. 27 and one flight returned to its departing port. Heavy gale force winds hammered Huairou District, about 12 miles north of the airport, though downtown Beijing experienced more moderate winds, according to a meteorological report.

Passengers on flights circling to land at the Beijing Capital International Airport were terrified. “I am still badly shaken now. The plane plunged straight down for hundreds of meters. We were lucky that the pilot found a way to pull the plane up,” one passenger posted on the Internet. That plane was diverted to the Shijiazhuang Zhengding International Airport, about 180 miles from Beijing.

“Even the flight attendants were frightened,” said Mr. Chen, a passenger on another flight, describing his terror for Beijing Youth Daily. “Their voices were trembling when they asked the passengers to buckle up. When the airplane went into a nose-dive, the feeling of weightlessness made me feel like I was going to die. A lot of people around me were screaming. I kept my eyes closed and didn’t dare to say a word.” 

According to Chen’s description, when the aircraft was approaching the Beijing airport, he felt that the plane was floating like a leaf on the wind and that the pilot had lost control of the airplane. Chen said, “I was petrified, I had no nerve left at all,” until they finally landed safely at the airport in Shijiazhuang.

Meteorological analysis shows that Beijing sandstorms are most frequent between March and May, but seldom in November. 

One woman who experienced the out of season storm on the ground wrote on the Internet, “This is the first time that I have ever felt such strong wind gusts. It was terrifying. It felt as though the building I was in was collapsing.”

Read the original Chinese article. 

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