Hundreds of Thai firefighters and soldiers battled a forest fire less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Bangkok on Friday as the kingdom grappled with air pollution that has already sickened more than 1.7 million people this year.
The fire affected at least 800,000 square meters (200 acres) of forest across three hills in Nakhon Nayok province, to the northeast of the Thai capital, with two districts declared emergency zones.
The fire comes as Thailand grapples with soaring pollution caused in part by agricultural burning that made the air in some northern cities rank among the dirtiest and most dangerous in the world this week.
Since the beginning of the year, 1,730,000 people have required hospitalization for respiratory illnesses caused by air pollution, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health.
The fire does not threaten any major population center, but it is close to the edge of Khao Yai National Park, the kingdom’s oldest national park and part of a UNESCO-listed forest complex that stretches all the way to the Cambodian border.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s office said in a statement that it had sent its interior minister to coordinate operations on the ground.
“Prime Minister Prayut and the Defense Minister have closely monitored the forest fires in Nakhon Nayok and have ordered concerned organizations to help extinguish the fire quickly,” said government spokesman Anucha Purapachisri.
Prayuth, who is running in a general election on May 14, on Thursday urged the senior official from the ASEAN regional bloc to help coordinate efforts to reduce transboundary pollution from agricultural burning.
Farmers across Southeast Asia burn leftover stubble in fields every year after the harvest season, causing widespread air pollution.
Northern Thailand has been particularly affected, and this week the cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai topped monitoring company IQAir’s list of worst for air quality – beating out the likes of Delhi and Beijing.
© 2023 AFP
the quote: Thai Firefighters Fight Forest Blaze (2023, March 31) Retrieved March 31, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-thai-firefighters-forest-blaze.html
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