BEIJING, CHINA — Intense air pollution and a massive sandstorm have combined to turn Beijing's air into a thick orange haze, sending air quality measurements off the charts.
The Guardian reports that air quality indexes recorded a shocking rating of 999 on Monday 15 March, as commuters travelled to work through the thick, dark air.
Residents in western China said they woke up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe.
When Beijing's air quality showed a reading of 999, Tokyo recorded 42 and Sydney 17.
Officials posted a warning for sand and dust blowing in from the western desert regions.
Sandstorms are relatively common at this time of year, and usually attributed to winds blowing across the Gobi desert, but residents said they had not seen one this severe in many years.
Large-scale deforestation is considered a big factor in the spring dust storms. Beijing and surrounding regions have been suffering from high levels of pollution in recent weeks, and officials have vowed to crack down on companies that break pollution rules.