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Residents hid inside their homes with their
windows and doors shut as the dust storm swept through the region
advancing 70ft a minute.
On the move: A massive sand storm hits a village in Golmud in the Qinghai Province. The region is near the edge of the Gobi desert
Day turned to night as tons of dust temporarily blocked out the sun and reduced visibility to around 600ft. But suddenly the storm calmed and the mile-high cloud settled back to Earth again, leaving villagers with a major clean-up operation.
Golmud is home to 200,000 people with 140,000
living in the city center. The new industrial city is built on a flat
expanse close to the borders of the Gobi desert, which is the largest
desert in Asia. Although not an ideal place to live, tens of thousands
of people have relocated there to work at the salt lakes in the region.
But the prospect of a good job and lots of
living space comes at a price. Every spring strong winds blow across the
Gobi creating huge columns of dust and sand, which are then dumped
nearby. The dust can cause frequent power blackouts, transport delays
and respiratory illness.
These buildings didn't need their camouflage paint as the sand quickly hid the village from view in mid May
The massive sand storm swept along at 70ft a minute
The Gobi sand even travels as far as
Beijing, with nearly a million tons of desert blown into the city each
year. In March this year China's capital turned orange during a
particularly ferocious dust storm.
More than a quarter of China - around one million square miles - is covered in sand with the Gobi covering northern parts of the country.
The bad news for the government is that the desert is growing despite their best efforts to contain it. The process of desertification has been worsened by over-grazing, deforestation, urban sprawl and an increasingly erratic climate.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences estimates that the number of sandstorms has jumped six-fold in the past 50 years to two dozen a year . Around 80 per cent of them occur between March and May.
Unless the government can find an effective way to stop the desert from spreading these impressive storm scenes will continue.
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