'Airpocalypse': Severe pollution cripples northeastern China

A large swath of northeastern China has been virtually paralyzed for two days by severe air pollution that forced airports and schools to close and drivers to turn on their headlights in the middle of the day.

The “airpocalypse” was blamed on the start of the winter heating season Sunday in a region that still uses coal-powered plants and the burning of fields at the end of the harvest. The lack of wind and high humidity also contributed to the severe pollution, meteorologists told the state media.

In Harbin, a city of 12 million world-famous for its wintertime ice festival, the smog was so thick that visibility was reduced to 20 yards. Municipal bus drivers lost their way in the haze. In one case, a morning rush hour bus that left at 5:30 wandered around for three hours before the driver found the route.

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