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A man buys fireworks at a certified store in Beijing in preparation for the upcoming Spring Festival. Sales of fireworks started on Tuesday at 1,337 certified stores across the city. Cao Boyuan / for China Daily
Beijing weather authorities issued a firework index for the first time on Tuesday to ensure safety and reduce pollution, as sales of fireworks for Spring Festival started at 1,337 certified stores citywide.
The index, which includes three grades, gives suggestions whether conditions outdoors are suitable for fireworks.
The public can check the index by calling a hotline run by the capital's meteorological department or reading its micro blog.
The Beijing Meteorological Bureau issued a "Grade 1" firework index on Tuesday, which means the weather conditions are suitable for setting off fireworks
The index will be released every day throughout the Lunar New Year holiday, according to the bureau.
Spring Festival is traditionally the most important festival in China and is the peak season for fireworks sales.
The index is based on a variety of weather conditions, including wind speed, humidity and precipitation, and is designed to ensure safety and reduce pollution caused by fireworks, said Ding Deping, an official at Beijing Metrological Bureau.
"Setting off fireworks or firecrackers will not be safe when there are strong winds or low humidity, because it can easily cause a fire," he told Beijing Times. "But when there is no wind at all, setting off fireworks is not appropriate either, as the pollutants released will not be dispersed quickly and can worsen smog."
In January, Beijing was hit by the worst hazy weather in decades. The city had only five smog-free days last month.
The prolonged haze has alerted the public, and many urged the government to limit or even ban setting off fireworks on hazy days.
Authorities have enhanced monitoring and inspections of fireworks distributors to ensure safety, according to the Beijing Administration of Work Safety.
At least 10 people died on Friday when a truck loaded with fireworks exploded and caused part of a highway bridge to collapse in Henan province.
"Safety is the biggest concern for us," said Xiao Hong, owner of a certified fireworks store in Beijing.
"Besides me, all my three assistants have finished a day's training organized by Beijing Administration of Work Safety and passed the test before opening the store," she said.
Xiao said she sold about 2,000 yuan ($321) worth of fireworks and firecrackers on Tuesday morning.
"Although sales were not bad, I am worried this year the total sales may go down because of air pollution reports and safety problems."
Li Zhiqiang, another shop owner in Beijing, said security inspections were more strict this year.
"About eight groups of inspection teams, including police officers, work safety officials and firefighters, came to my shop in the morning, and inspected every corner," he said, adding that he installed a real-time communication system, which includes a camera and two speakers, to link the store to Beijing Administration of Work Safety.
"In this way, the work safety department can monitor the store, and we can report to the department immediately if any danger occurs," Li said.
(China Daily 02/06/2013 page5)