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Nation hit by worst-ever dust storm

The worst-recorded yellow dust storm hit the nation on Saturday, causing the weather agency to issue its first nationwide warning, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.
The KMA lifted the yellow dust warning at 4 a.m. yesterday as the storm weakened overnight.
In the afternoon, the yellow dust moved out of the country following the low-pressure system that was quickly moving eastward, the KMA said. Yellow dust in China`s northern region also quickly weakened and became less likely to affect the peninsula.
"With the wind blowing from the southwest, the possibility is that the density of fine dust in the western coastal region and some inland areas can get thicker on Monday. Thus, extra caution needs to be taken to take care of your health," a KMA official said.
The sandstorm, which scientists blame on China`s industrialization and deforestation, hit the nation Saturday for the fifth time this year. The level of PM10 - particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter - on the southeastern island of Heuksan Saturday afternoon reached 2,847 micrograms per cubic meter, the highest level since the KMA began recording the level in 2003.
The KMA issues a yellow dust watch when the level of PM10 is 400 micrograms per cubic meter or more for two hours or longer. It issues a yellow dust warning when the level is 800 micrograms per cubic meter or more for two hours or longer.
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Citizens in Seoul felt inconvenienced as visibility lessened and the dust storm posed health threats, including respiratory problems.
"I felt very uncomfortable when moving around the city with the yellow dust all over in the air. I scrapped an appointment with my friends and am in a rush to get back home," said Lee Jae-sik, a 28-year-old Seoul office worker, who covered his face with a mask.
On Saturday, the Chinese capital of Beijing was blanketed with the yellow dust, as a sandstorm caused by a severe drought in the north and in Mongolia swept into the city, according to news reports.
The storm, which earlier buffeted parts of northeastern China, brought strong winds and cut visibility in Beijing.
Authorities issued a rare level-five pollution warning, signaling hazardous conditions, and urged residents to stay indoors.
Sandstorms frequently hit the arid north of China in the spring, when temperatures start to rise, stirring up clouds of dust that can travel across China, to Korea and Japan and even as far as the United States.
(sshluck@heraldcorp.com)

By Song Sang-ho
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