04/27/2006, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Yellow dust storm coats Korean peninsula

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

The dust fell between Sunday and Monday. Children and elderly people have been warned to stay indoors and people going out have worn protective masks.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – A storm of yellow dust has enveloped the Korean peninsula.

The storm coated the western provinces Sunday night and continued nationwide until Monday night, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA).

The KMA raised the alarm on Monday morning: children and elderly were advised to stay indoors and those with a cell phone received a warning message. People on the streets wore protective masks and many preferred to travel in private rather than public transport to have as little air exposure as possible.

"The yellow dust, originating from Inner Mongolia, blanketed the country via Manchuria and the Bohai Sea on the coast of northeastern China,'' a KMA official said.

Dust storms have become an environmental and health hazard, due to the combination of dust and pollution, especially in industrial cities in eastern China.

They have become more common because of deforestation and desertification: there were five sandstorms in the last month alone, lasting a total of eight days in all.

Dust density on Monday exceeded 600 micrograms per cubic meter of air, but its severity was less than the storm that hit the country on 8 April 2002. Dust storm warnings are usually issued when dust density of more than 500 micrograms per cubic meter is forecast to last for more than two hours.

The dust is harmful to children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems, the KMA warned.

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