April 10, 2006Shielding his eyes, a man struggles through a
sandstorm in the Gansu Province of China today.
Severe sandstorms have plagued several areas of China (map) in the past few weeks. More than a hundred tourists had to be rescued from buses in the northwestern Xinjiang Province after a heavy sandstorm stranded vehicles on a highway, according to the Reuters news agency.
Strong winds originating out of the dry Gobi region sweep across China this time each year, carrying clouds of loose soil and dust for hundreds of miles.
The storms have been growing in intensity for several years. Many scientists believe that unsustainable farming practices combined with droughts have been causing cropland in China to turn into desert at an alarming rate.
The phenomenon creates problems for China's neighbors as well. The Korea Times newspaper reported yesterday that the Korean peninsula was being hit by the worst sandstorm since 2002.
The "yellow dust" reduced visibility there by a fifth and prompted the nation's weather agency to advise people to stay inside until the storm cleared.
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