BEIJING — As northern China entered its high-smog season, one city's visibility was less than half a football field Monday and the manager of jazz singer Patti Austin said she had canceled a Beijing concert because of asthma likely linked to pollution.
Winter typically brings the worst air pollution to the region because of a combination of weather conditions and an increase in the burning of coal for homes and municipal heating systems, which usually start on a specific date. For the northern city of Harbin, the city's heating systems kicked in Sunday, and on Monday visibility there was less than 50 meters (yards), according to state media.
Primary and middle schools and some highways were closed, said authorities in the city, which is in China's northernmost province near the Russian border. At least 40 flights flying to destinations in southern China and Beijing among others had been cancelled or postponed at Harbin's Taiping International Airport on Monday morning.
Some of the city's buses also stopped running, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The density of fine particulate matter used as an indicator of air quality was more than 24 times higher in Harbin than the level considered safe by the World Health Organization. The PM2.5 density was above 617 micrograms per cubic meter, according to official readings. The safe level recommended by WHO is 25 micrograms per cubic meter.