China destroys 500 barbecues to tame Beijing pollution - media

A woman and her children wearing masks ride a vehicle during a smoggy day in Beijing October 28, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

BEIJING (Reuters) - More than 500 illegal outdoor barbecues, which Chinese state media say cause “serious air pollution”, have been destroyed in Beijing as part of an emergency program to alleviate the city’s often hazardous pollution.

The raids were part of a three-month operation to supervise the barbecues, many of which are operated by ethnic Uighur Muslims from the restive Xinjiang province in China’s west.

“Over 500 illegal barbecue grills in Beijing were destroyed on Tuesday amid the city’s efforts to fight air pollution and lingering foggy weather,” state media Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

Pollution often reaches hazardous levels and can cause long-term health issues. Chinese health officials say that lung cancer rates are rising among the city’s more than 20 million residents.

China has adopted an emergency response program to try to reduce the pollution, including alternating days for cars with odd and even license plates to be on the road and closing schools when the smog is particularly heavy.

Smoke from factories and heating plants that encircle Beijing, winds blowing in from the Gobi Desert and fumes from millions of vehicles all contribute to the smog that often forms a thick blanket over the city.

Last winter the capital’s smog was so bad it was dubbed the “airpocalypse”, and there are concerns this winter will see a repeat after huge swathes of northeastern China ground to a halt in October when they were smothered by pollution.

Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Alison Williams