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Massive Sandstorm Causes Panic In Beijing

04/16/2015 05:10 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2015

A massive sandstorm swept over Beijing on Wednesday, darkening the skies and causing mild panic among residents.

The storm, which some outlets are calling the worst in more than a decade, reached speeds of 45 miles an hour and brought traffic in the city to a halt. Visibility plummeted and authorities urged people to stay indoors after the national observatory, China's environmental monitoring center, issued a heightened "yellow" alert before the storm hit.

Some residents wrote they felt like it was "the end of the world" and questioned how they could "survive such bad weather." But many cities have grown accustomed to darkened skies as smog levels in China continue to reach hazardous levels. In February, China's Ministry of Environmental Protection said 66 of the country's 74 major cities were failing to meet basic air quality standards last year.

Sandstorms are a relatively common occurrence in China, but they have also been tied to human activities and climate change, according to a paper published in the Journal of Arid Environments.

Take a look at some of the striking photos below.

  • ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
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  • FRED DUFOUR via Getty Images
  • FRED DUFOUR via Getty Images
  • FRED DUFOUR via Getty Images
  • FRED DUFOUR via Getty Images
  • ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
  • ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

😷😷😷😷😷 #sand #wind #beijing #instasize

A photo posted by @hexyle on

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