CHIANG RAI – Suraphan Sangsawang, acting director of the Regional Health Promotion Centre has said that reports from 90 hospitals showed that as many as 64,108 people were hospitalised because of haze in Thailand’s northern provinces, while more patients are expected as a result of the air pollution.
Suraphan said Chiang Mai had the highest number of patients at 17,359, followed by Chiang Rai at 11,779 and Lampang at 10,228.
The volume of particulate matter with a maximum diameter of 10 microns (PM10) rose on Monday above the safe level of 120 micrograms per cubic metre in many northern provinces.
According to the Pollution Control Department, the three districts with the highest PM10 levels were Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai (276 micrograms), Lampang’s Mae Mo (213 micrograms) and Payao’s Mueng (188 micrograms).
Haze is an annual problem in northern Thailand, where wildfires and fires set by farmers burning fields after harvests choke the air with smoke.
Air pollution was above safe levels at 13 of 17 monitoring stations operated by the Pollution Control Department. Authorities said they are closely monitoring illegal forest fires which have reached critical levels several times since 2007.
Despite annual government campaigns to stop the slash-and-burn farmers blamed for the smoke, air quality and visibility in the north plummets each burning season, which usually lasts February through April.
Authorities in Chiang Rai city today distributed masks to people and used 30 fire trucks to spray water in the air in the hope of relieving dusty conditions there.