Beijing (AsiaNews) - Beijing has woken up on the first day of the Lunar New Year - dedicated to Goat - covered with snow. Expected next February 21, a light snow started to fall on the Chinese capital from the afternoon of the 19, covering the city and helping to combat environmental pollution. The weather event was received with joy, because according to tradition snow at the beginning of the New Year means "abundant fruit" in the year to come.
Beijing is also enjoying an abnormal absence of residents. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the city to return to their home areas to celebrate the New Year with their families, and the city arteries - usually clogged till choking point - are eerily empty. Public transport services and public offices, usually impossible to access, are also functioning regularly.
However, the snow has not managed to eradicate the particulate pollutants in the air, at the highest level after the fireworks that lit up the sky February 18, the eve of the New Lunar Year. At around 12 pm today, the level of air quality was up 145 points: according to international standards, passing the threshold of 140 is "dangerous" for those who breathe the air.
The municipal traffic authorities have also been forced to close some highways in the suburbs, where the snow - along with morning fog and smog - has reduced the visibility to less than 500 meters. However, the absence of about 50% of the normal population has helped the management of road traffic.