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Residents Warned to Stay Inside as Toxic Smog Blankets Northern Thailand

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CHIANG RAI – Several provinces in North and Northeast of Thailand are facing toxic smog from agricultural and forest fires as residents are told to avoid outdoor activities when possible by Thai health officials.

Thick smog blanketed Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district Friday morning when PM2.5 rose to 203 micrograms per cubic meter, inducing poor visibility. Authorities sprayed water into the air in their urgent effort to lower toxic pollution.

Local officials said Thailand planned to consult with Myanmar about the problem via Thai-Myanmar Township Border Committee, a local mechanism for cooperation. They said most of Thai residents had been affected by haze originated in Myanmar.

In neighboring Phayao Province, the severe pollution has forced Phayao University to suspend its classes for two days after PM2.5 level surged to over 130 micrograms.

The University issued a warning for students, staff and lecturers to avoid exposure to air pollution, refrain from outdoor activities and wearing masks.

In Chiang Mai more than 500 officials, including soldiers and policemen today kicked off a campaign to stop forest fires in Chiang Mai as air pollution continues for about a week in northern provinces.

The campaign was officially opened at the Thapae gate, a landmark in the provincial seat.

The amount of small dust particles known as PM2.5 stood high between 155 – 171 micrograms per cubic metre in Chiang Mai, considered extremely much higher than required standards for the sixth day in the province.

According to TNA, Farm waste burning have also caused PM2.5 problem in the Northeast. Exacerbated by a weather pattern, the harmful particle matter level has risen over safety limit in Khon Kaen. Such condition would prevail for a few days before a summer storm is predicted on Sunday, reports a local weather office.

In Loei, concerns over health impacts from of PM2.5 have led local authorities to speedy conduct public relations and enforcement of law. Local residents have been urged to protect themselves from respiratory infections, while raising public awareness on long-term impacts.

Agricultural fires have also been identified as a major cause for air pollution in the province.