More than 3,400 people in Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai, including 372 in Mae Sai district alone, were treated for respiratory conditions between March 19th and 26th, as they struggle to cope with choking air pollution caused by forest and farm fires.
Meanwhile, Chiang Rai governor Puttipong Sirimat said yesterday (Monday) that he will not yet declare Mae Sai district a disaster zone, as proposed by the business sector and civic groups, for fear that the measure will have a negative impacts on a lot of people, but he will explore other options.
Dr. Watchapong Kamla, the provincial health chief, disclosed that 3,478 people, including 372 in Mae Sai, have visited state hospitals in the province with respiratory conditions, such as sore throats and nasal irritations.
The governor said that the provincial officials have deployed trucks to spray water into the air, which can ease the dust problem to a certain extent. He is due to visit Mae Sai district today to hold talks with district officials and representatives of civic societies to address the problem.
Today, the PM2.5 dust in Chiang Rai province remains way above Thailand’s 50 micron safety level, with the average reading in Wiang Phang Kham sub-district of Mae Sai being 523 microns, with average PM10 readings of 638 microns.
PM2.5 levels in Chiang Khong district, which borders Laos, and in the Mueang district, were measured at over 400 microns for the first time.
The Mae Sai township remains shrouded in a haze so thick that buildings can only be seen from a short distance away.
Meanwhile, it is reported that many park officials and volunteers spent all of yesterday battling forest fires at Doi Chang, in Mae Sruey district, before they managed to bring them under control.
The fires reportedly started in grassland near the viewpoint and quickly spread over a wide area, prompting forest officials to mobilise volunteers to help in limiting their spread.