msnbc.com news services
updated 5/5/2006 2:16:07 PM ET 2006-05-05T18:16:07

Chinese technicians have artificially generated heavy rainfall to wash a layer of sand and dust off Beijing, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

The Chinese capital was hit by fierce sandstorm last month that left the city cloaked in grit, much of it scooped up from the Gobi desert.

The Beijing Weather Modification Office responded Thursday with a major cloud seeding operation.

“A total of 163 pieces of cigarette-like sticks containing silver iodide were burned and seven rocket shells were launched in six districts and counties, which resulted in the heaviest rainfall in Beijing this spring,” Xinhua said.

Although the science of weather seeding is controversial and some doubt its effectiveness, China often seeds clouds in an effort to end droughts in the arid north.

The April sandstorm dumped 300,000 tons of dust and sand on the Chinese capital, and reportedly was the most severe in at least five years. Dust was blown as far away as South Korea and Tokyo.

This spring's storms were unusually bad due to very dry conditions after rainfall over the past year was up to 80 percent below normal levels. The Chinese capital has been hit by 10 dust storms since February.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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