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BANGKOK – Wildfires raging in northern Thailand threaten to exacerbate air pollution in the country, with nearly two million people hospitalized with respiratory illnesses since the beginning of the year.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha on Thursday ordered emergency measures to quell forest fires in Nakhon Nayok province east of the capital Bangkok and in northern provinces including popular tourist destinations Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, according to government spokesman Anucha. Burapachari.

In a statement Thursday, Anucha said firefighters and other officials have been deployed to monitor the affected areas as farmland is burned and illegally foraged at this time of the year.

According to local media reports, a mountain in Khao Laem National Park in Nakhon Nayok was engulfed in flames on Wednesday night.

Multiple wildfires have also been reported from protected forests in northern Thailand, with several hotspots across the borders of neighboring Myanmar and Laos, a satellite heatmap from Thailand’s space agency showed.

Wildfires are the latest cause of deteriorating air quality in Thailand, with levels of particulate dust particles known as PM2.5 pushing into the danger zone above unhealthy thresholds in some areas .

Bangkok and other Thai cities have been grappling with deteriorating air quality in recent years, with air pollution exacerbated during the dry season around December to February, mainly due to burning of farmland and vehicle exhaust in Thailand and neighboring countries. tend to.

Chiang Mai was ranked as the world’s most polluted city by air quality monitor IQAir on Thursday, with PM2.5 concentration readings “extremely unhealthy.” Adjacent Chiang Rai province has seen “dangerous” figures for most of the past seven days, according to IQAir data.

The Ministry of Public Health said eight provinces in northern Thailand were being monitored for dangerous levels of air pollution. This condition will last him through early April and is expected to normalize in May.

Patients with air pollution-related illnesses in Thai hospitals surged to more than 1.73 million between January 1 and March 19 this year, said Opus Khan Kawimpong, secretary general of the ministry. Stated.

Thais are being asked to stay indoors as much as possible or wear respirators outdoors, he said. bloomberg Forest fires in Thailand exacerbate pollution, 2 million sick

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