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Chinese yellow sand hits Japan, SKorea: officials

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 3, 2008
Hazardous yellow sand from China covered parts of South Korea and Japan on Monday, keeping people indoors as Tokyo pressed Beijing to reveal more information to the public.

Schools were closed as the dust blanketed southern parts of the Korean peninsula, while Japan advised people to be cautious and predicted the dust would continue for another day.

Yellow dust -- fine sand from Mongolia's Gobi Desert which sometimes includes toxic chemical smog emitted by Chinese factories -- usually hits South Korea and Japan in the spring. It can cause respiratory disorders.

In Tokyo, Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita recently called on Beijing to disclose data on the yellow sand.

"About yellow sand, I am not quite sure how and why it can be regarded as a national secret," Kamoshita told a press conference last month.

"Air is connected beyond national borders, and yellow sand travels beyond borders. I think it is important we share information," he said.

Japan, China and South Korea have began joint research on the phenomenon. Japan's environment ministry recently began posting observation data and forecasts for dust waves on the Internet.

But according to Japan, China has refused to release its own data and has insisted that any joint findings be kept from the public.

In South Korea, nursery and elementary schools were shut down along the southern coast including in the country's second largest city of Busan.

Weather officials said the dust had blanketed much of South Korea and expected the yellow storm blanket would sweep the peninsula more often this year than in the past.

Dust and sand will also hit most of Japan until Tuesday except for the northernmost regions, the meteorological agency said.

By Monday, the sand already swept over the southern regions of Okinawa and Kyushu, where the dust could be seen on vehicles and on laundry out to dry.

Small businesses put plastic covering on their storefronts to avoid damage to their products, television footage showed.

Motorists were advised to exercise caution in southern Japanese cities including Kumamoto and Nagasaki, where visibility fell below five kilometres (three miles).

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Greeks shipping firms oppose pollution controls
Athens (AFP) March 3, 2008
Two leading Greek maritime associations, which control the world's largest fleet, on Monday strongly opposed a plan to tax ships for emitting pollutants, saying they were the cleanest mode of transport.

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