On Sunday, July 25, just after 3 pm local time, a massive sandstorm approached a historic city in China’s northwestern region, devouring its buildings and covering everything in dust.

According to the regional meteorological department, a sandstorm of more than 100-meter height has swept across Dunhuang City in China’s Gansu Province, decreasing visibility to five meters.

Video shows the hulk-like blanket of sand advanced to envelope metropolitan areas and highways of Dunhuang. 9News said local police had to get on the roads to control the traffic while the sand was driving through. Drivers were ordered to pull over and wait for the storm to subside. 

There have been no reports of casualties, but experts warn that the city’s air quality remained terrible. 

Dunhuang is situated on the outskirts of the Gobi desert, which is known for its harsh climates.

Sand from the Gobi desert in China’s northern region and Mongolia is picked up by winds every spring. As their volume gradually accumulates, they form into massive sandstorms that will later descend on cities as far away as Shandong on China’s eastern coast and other places throughout Asia.

The sandstorms have been exacerbated by desertification, as the Gobi desert expands each year, converting agriculture into the desert. By 2020, Earth.org reported that desertification had affected 27.4 percent of China’s land area.

China is erecting a natural border of trees known as the “Great Green Wall” in deforested areas to reduce sandstorms, a project that had been ongoing since 1978.

Despite the effort, experts believe that desertification will worsen as the Earth’s climate changes, recommending that humans refrain from intervening and give the ecosystem ample time to recover in the future.

Between March and April this year, Beijing alone had been hit by a sandstorm three times over the course of five consecutive weeks. The calamity was said to be the worst in a decade, which has raised air pollution to dangerous levels.

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