An unusual strong sandstorm began sweeping Inner Mongolia Saturday afternoon, adding difficulty to the disaster relief efforts at earthquake-hit areas in the northern autonomous region.
The wind lashed almost the whole region with a force of fresh breeze to fresh gale, and a snowstorm is expected to hit part of the pastoral area later Sunday, according to the regional meteorological bureau.
Liu Jingtao, chief engineer of the bureau, said temperature in eastern and central Inner Mongolia fell below zero degree Celsius Saturday night. It is expected to further drop by 6-8 degrees Sunday and Monday.
Nearly 80 percent of the tents at Wenggensumu Town in Dong Ujimqin Banner (county), one of the quake-affected areas, were toppled or blown away, leaving some 10,000 earthquake victims in the open air waiting for rescue again. The local government is organizing efforts to ship more tents to the region, said an official of the banner.
A total of 22 people were reported lost. By Sunday noon, 19 of them have been found and three are still missing. More than 5,000 livestock have got lost or died. The sandstorm also caused power failure and destroyed waterworks facilities at the Dong Ujimqin Banner (county) and Ulgai development zone.
Starting from Saturday morning, the sandstorm, the strongest in recent years in the region, swept from west to east through Xilin Gol League, which was hit by an earthquake measuring 5.9 degrees on the Richter scale last Wednesday, with the maximum speed reaching 28 meters per second, according to the weather station.
"When the wind came Saturday noon, the sky turned from blue into red and then black in the afternoon,Ħħ said a local resident.
"I can see nothing outside the car as the visibility is less than 10 meters," recalled a driver.