BEIJING, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Authorities in Beijing have mobilized public transportation and suspended schools for the city's first red alert on air pollution of the year.
As air quality began deteriorating at noon, the local government activated the red alert at 4:20 p.m., about four hours ahead of the scheduled time of 8 p.m..
As of 4:20 p.m., the PM2.5 density hit 253 in the city's central areas, indicating the air is heavily-polluted.
Density of pollutants in Beijing is expected to increase from Dec. 17 to 19, followed by a weak cold front on Dec. 20 that will not disperse the smog, which will persist until Dec. 21, according to Zhai Liang, a local weatherman.
"Odd-even" car restriction is in force, and additional public transportation has been arranged, with more buses running for longer.
The commission expects 500,000 more trips via public transportation during the alert.
All road construction and maintenance sites have been ordered to stop work. Older and high-polluting vehicles are banned and staff from environmental protection, transportation and urban management authorities out in force to check that the rules are being obeyed.
So far, 388 people have been penalized for outdoor barbecues and fires. Over 19,000 vehicles, have been checked but only 18 violations found.
The city's education department closed all kindergartens, primary schools and private training centers and gave middle schools flexibility to cancel classes if they consider it necessary.
China has a four-tier warning system for severe weather, with red being the most serious, followed by orange, yellow and blue.
A red alert is issued if the city's Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches 500. Four consecutive days of heavy air pollution (AQI over 200), including two days of severe air pollution (AQI over 300), can also activate a red alert.
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