Thai weatherman forecasts winds to blow away Bangkok’s unsafe dust clouds this weekend

During another pollution peak in late January and early February, city authorities urged people to work from home. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - Residents of Thai capital Bangkok will have to suffer dangerously high levels of PM2.5 dust for another day or two until skies clear on Saturday, the Thai Meteorological Department (TMD) said on Thursday.

The TMD forecast that stagnant air, which allows PM2.5 haze to accumulate, will hang over the city’s metropolitan area until Friday.

On Saturday and Sunday, south-easterly winds of up to 25kmh will blow into the city to improve air circulation and reduce PM2.5 levels, said the department.

On Thursday morning, data from Bangkok’s air-quality monitoring stations across 70 areas showed PM2.5 levels ranging from 56mcg to 96mcg.

Any level above 50mcg is considered unsafe, as long-term exposure is linked with chronic diseases including lung and heart problems.

Nearly 200,000 people in Thailand have been admitted to hospital because of air pollution this week, officials have said, with Bangkok shrouded in a harmful haze.

The Thai capital, home to an estimated 11 million people and one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, has been blanketed for days by an unpleasant yellow-grey mix of vehicle fumes, industrial emissions and smoke from agricultural burning.

More than 1.3 million people have fallen sick in the kingdom since the start of 2023 as a result of air pollution, with nearly 200,000 admitted to hospital this week alone, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

Dr Kriangkrai Namthaisong on Wednesday urged children and pregnant women to stay indoors.

Anyone going outside should wear a high-quality N95 anti-pollution mask, he added.

During another pollution peak in late January and early February, the city authorities urged people to work from home.

A spokesman for Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt – elected in 2022 with promises to improve the city’s environment – said they would not hesitate to issue another similar order if the situation became worse.

Mr Aekvarunyoo Amrapala said that nurseries run by the city had set up special “no dust rooms” with air purifiers to protect young children, as well as checkpoints to monitor vehicle emissions.

The ministry said 50 districts in Bangkok on Wednesday recorded unsafe levels of the most dangerous PM2.5 particles – so tiny they can enter the bloodstream – while on Thursday, they remained well above World Health Organisation guidelines.

The situation was worse in the northern city of Chiang Mai, in an agricultural region where farmers burn crop stubble at this time of the year.

Around midday, the popular tourist destination was ranked the third-most polluted city in the world by monitoring firm IQAir. AFP

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