Air quality worsens in North as fires rage

Air quality worsens in North as fires rage

Worst blaze on Doi Suthep mountain

Chiang Mai was ranked as the world's worst city for air pollution by yesterday, while forest fires in Chiang Rai were made worse by a drug addict who started a blaze. reported Chiang Mai had an air quality index of 320 with an ultra-fine PM2.5 dust level of 269.2 microgrammes per cubic metre, far beyond the "safe" exposure threshold of 50µg/m³ set by the Pollution Control Department.

The air quality website said Chiang Mai was the worst air-polluted city in the world, followed by Shenyang in China and Kathmandu in Nepal, respectively.

The Centre for Tackling Forest Fires and Haze Pollution in Chiang Mai reported that there were 297 hotspots found yesterday morning, mostly in national parks, forest reserves, agricultural land and communities.

There have been 6,895 hotspots identified so far this year.

The area of most concern was Chiang Mai's Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, where there was an ongoing wildfire.

Protected Areas Regional Office 16 Chiang Mai sent 90 firefighters to extinguish the forest fire but steep mountain geography and strong winds reportedly blocked their access.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) and the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation also sent a helicopter to assist with fighting the fire.

Chiang Mai deputy governor Weerapong Ritrod and officials from Chiang Mai Provincial Commerce Office yesterday visited a department store and local pharmacies to inspect the price of air purifiers and masks amid a sharp rise in demand by the public.

Mr Weerapong said small air purifiers are in the 1,900-3,200 baht range, while larger ones are above 50,000 baht.

The prices are not likely to rise as authorities have warned businesses not to exploit the situation.

Meanwhile, in Chiang Rai, forest fires were ongoing in widespread areas of national parks such as Lam Nam Kok National Park, Mae Puem National Park, Doi Luang National Park and other forests.

The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation sent helicopters carrying 5,000 litres of water to extinguish the fires, while the MNRE sent one helicopter in support.

In the early hours yesterday, officers arrested a man identified as Somchai, a 29-year-old local from tambon Wa Wi in Mae Suai district of Chiang Rai, who confessed to causing a wildfire due to drug-induced mania.

Reports said he had bought methamphetamine pills from local ethnic people and mixed them with heroin. Mae Suai police have charged him with drug use and illegally burning a forest.

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