China Environmental News Digest

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Beijing braces for holiday chaos as smog settles

Reuters via Washingtonpost.com

Thursday, October 5, 2006; 11:07 PM

BEIJING (Reuters) - Smog shrouded Beijing on Friday as hundreds of thousands of cars headed back to the capital near the end of the week-long National Day holiday, prompting warnings to China's notoriously negligent drivers.

Thursday saw a sudden surge of traffic flow in and out of Beijing, as people rushed home for the Moon Festival on Friday, a traditional holiday for family reunions, the eating of mooncakes and, for some, gazing at the full moon, if possible.

"Clear and sunny weather this autumn added to the number of people who decided to hit the road," the China Daily said, as a mix of fog and pollution blanketed the city for the first time in days.

The National Day break, which ends on Saturday, is a "Golden Week" holiday which, along with Chinese New Year and May Labour Day, spurs one of the biggest migrations of humanity.

Some 330 million Chinese were due to take to the roads over the holiday, up 2.4 percent from 2005. The China Daily said nearly 300,000 vehicles poured into the city on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"A huge traffic jam is expected on the city's main roads from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today," the newspaper said. "Traffic officials have urged residents to avoid the rush hour and ride public transportation to alleviate congestion."

China has the most dangerous roads in the world, with accidents killing almost 100,000 people last year, or about 270 a day.

The high toll is largely a result of negligence, with drivers commonly switching lanes without looking or signaling, ignoring traffic lights and even throwing their vehicles into reverse when they have missed a highway exit.

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