Beijing, Mar 28 (PTI) A sandstorm hit several Chinese cities including the capital Beijing today, worsening air quality, with authorities issuing a blue alert for dust.

The sand and dust have affected Beijing and Tianjin municipality, Shanxi, Hebei, Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, as well as inner Mongolia and southern Xinjiang, the National Meteorological Center of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) said.

It is the fourth round of sandstorm to hit the northern regions including capital Beijing in the last three days this year, the CMA said.

The centre said that an area of 1.5 million square kms or around one-sixth of the country has been affected by the weather.

Statistics released by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment showed that sand and dust swept northern parts of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region this morning. The air quality index (AQI) in some cities of the region reached 500.

The sand and dust will last until tomorrow in the region, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Visibility was low in Beijing. The city issued a blue alert for dust this morning.

China has a four-tier colour-coded weather warning system, with red representing the most severe weather, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

The meteorological centre said the level of PM10 in Beijing soared from 282 micrograms per cubic meter to nearly 2,000 from 5 AM to 7 AM today.

Neighbouring Tianjin Municipality issued an orange alert for heavy air pollution on Monday. Measures such as traffic controls on heavy trucks in the city, pollutant emission cuts in factories and suspension of work at construction sites have been taken in Tianjin.

Cities in northeast China’s Liaoning province also saw floating dust and sand at noon today.

The provincial meteorological centre issued a blue alert for gales this morning. Some coastal areas and flights will be affected by strong wind.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.