Shanghai Haze Cancels Flights as Pollution Hits 'Beyond Index'
A heavy fog engulfing Shanghai caused widespread flight cancellations as the worst pollution levels since government monitoring began spurred the U.S. consulate to caution that readings had exceeded its classification system.
The city's air quality index jumped to 504 by noon, putting it in the "beyond index" category, the U.S. consulate in Shanghai said on its website. Pollution is hazardous and people should take steps to reduce their exposure such as staying indoors in a room or building with filtered air, it said.
Enlarge image Shanghai Pollution
A view of downtown Shanghai shows severe pollution on Dec. 5, 2013. Photographer: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images
"The pollution is worse today and the fog is getting heavier," said Zhang Yanbing, analyst at Zheshang Securities Co. in Shanghai. "I am not prohibiting my kids from going outside because we have to learn to grow up in all kinds of environment. But they are definitely wearing face masks."
Heavy pollution may undermine plans for Shanghai, the nation's commercial hub, to attract foreign investment and multinational firms, as the city implements a free-trade zone as part of a broader goal to become a global financial and logistics center by 2020.
The Shanghai government said air quality surged to 426, placing it in the "severe" category, the highest in a six-tier rating system, according to its own monitoring system. Today's air quality level surpasses the previous record of 317, the Shanghai Daily reported. Local authorities warned children and elderly people to stay indoors.
At least half of the students at the Origin Education Children's House, a private kindergarten in Shanghai, didn't show up today, said Qian Ying, a teacher at the school. The kindergarten also canceled all outdoor activities, Qian said.
Levels of PM2.5 -- particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that pose the biggest health risk -- were 542.9 micrograms per cubic meter, more than 20 times the recommended levels by the World Health Organization, data from the Shanghai monitoring center showed.
Masks and air purifiers produced by 3M Co. (MMM) have mostly sold out, Royce Hua, its Shanghai-based head of corporate communications, said by telephone today. The company won't be able to boost production in the near future because capacity has been reached, he said.
At least 102 outbound flights and 122 inbound flights have been delayed at Shanghai's two airports in Pudong and Hongqiao, while 28 outbound flights and 29 inbound were cancelled, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from the Shanghai Airport Authority's website. Su Weiwei, a spokeswoman for the authority, declined to confirm how many flights have been cancelled and said schedules would be disrupted all day.
Japan's All Nippon Airways (9202) started diverting flights away from Shanghai yesterday and postponed two flights today, according to Naoko Yamamoto, spokeswoman for parent company ANA Holdings.
Chinese environmental protection shares rallied as a slump in coal producers dragged down the nation's benchmark index. The Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.8 percent at 1:17 p.m., with China Shenhua Energy Co. falling 1.7 percent. Fujian Longking, which makes pollution control equipment, gained as much as 6.2 percent.
An orange-level haze alert, the second highest, remained in effect, according to the Shanghai government information office microblog. Elevated highways were facing heavy congestion with some highway entrances closed and some river traffic halted, the microblog said.
"It's horrible out there," said Scott Goldman, an American who works as a project manager for Duke University's Fuqua School of Business in Shanghai. "I was just up in Beijing three days ago. Usually Beijing's worse but not this time."
Pollutants are concentrating because of weak winds that are coming predominantly from the northeast, according to Shanghai's monitoring center. Heavy to severe pollution is (continue here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-06/shanghai-haze-forces-plane-cancellations-pollution-warnings.html )