Wednesday, March 21, 2007

UN scuttling from Northern Thailand's haze

The smoke/haze pollution seems to have no let up in Northern Thailand. Now the UN refugee agency is evacuating personnel who are having breathing problems.
I feel for those stuck with nowhere to run to for fresh clean air. The whole of the north needs a good storm with fierce winds to disperse the crud.
I'm heading into it next Monday... and can't put it off any longer. I'll take some masks with me, I think.

Bangkok Post: Northern haze too much for UN
Northern haze too much for UN
By Cheewin Sattha

The UN refugee agency and other international organisations based in Mae Hong Son province are evacuating officials and families with respiratory problems - and may evacuate entirely.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which cares for Karen refugees living in camps in the northern province, said it has plans to evacuate all staff if haze caused by forest fires is not brought under control.

Suthep Nutsruang, Mae Hong Son municipality mayor, yesterday launched a campaign to urge residents to help solve haze pollution, which threatens the health of people with respiratory ailments.

Dust particles smaller than 10 microns were measured at 340 microgrammes per cubic metre (ug/cu m) in Mae Hong Son's Muang district yesterday, almost three times the maximum level considered healthy - 120 ug/cu m.

Mae Hong Son governor Direk Konkleep urged residents to spray their roofs and roads with water from 1-3pm in a bid to reduce haze and increase humidity.

The province was recently declared a disaster area after the number of people suffering respiratory problems soared.

Mr Direk said he has asked chiefs of all seven districts to join hands with local administrative organisations to set up coordinating centres to operate around the clock combatting haze in their areas.

He also threatened to revoke occupational rights on private land plots if owners or occupants let bush fires burn on their land.

Third Army commander Maj-Gen Jiradet Khotcharat has ordered troops to survey forest fires at Doi Suthep-Pui national park in Chiang Mai and help forest fire units fight the blazes.

Troops from the 33rd Army Circle and the 7th Infantry Regiment yesterday took to helicopters to survey Doi Suthep-Pui national park and found several forest areas had been burnt out.

More than 500 soldiers and territorial defence students were yesterday sent to combat a forest fire which raged near Wat Ban Pong temple. It took several hours for the soldiers to put out the fire. Monks were evacuated to safety.

Col Khachachart Boondee, head of the 33rd Army Circle's military training centre, said the centre has closely monitored fires in Chiang Mai by sending troops to survey forest areas and national parks in several districts including Muang, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng and Chiang Dao.

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