Mexico pollution alert extended as smog stagnates

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MEXICO CITY, May 17, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Mexico City authorities have
announced a second straight day of school closures for Friday and extended a
pollution alert as a cloud of smog continued to blanket the sprawling
capital.

Dozens of wildfires have combined with hot, dry weather to cause a sharp
rise in air pollution across a swathe of central Mexico — especially in the
Mexico City metropolitan area, home to more than 20 million people.

The city declared an environmental alert Tuesday, urging residents to avoid
physical activity outdoors and the elderly and those with respiratory
illnesses to remain inside.

Friday will mark the fourth straight day under the emergency measures.

“Due to high pollution levels caused by the fires affecting the region and
unfavorable weather conditions for the dispersal of the resulting particles,
the Mexico City board of education has decided to extend the cancellation of
classes,” the education ministry said Thursday in a statement.

The mega-city has been blanketed in a layer of burnt-smelling smog since
Saturday.

The air pollution has swathed the skyline in a murky gray and stings some
residents’ eyes and throats, causing many to wear surgical masks.

“I have asthma, and I haven’t been able to stop coughing. It’s hard to
breathe,” 52-year-old resident Juan Sanchez told AFP.

The authorities have restricted the use of older vehicles, shut down
construction sites larger than 5,000 square meters (55,000 square feet), and
ordered certain polluting industries to cut their emissions by 30 to 40
percent.

The Mexican football league first postponed and then relocated a hotly
anticipated first-division semi-final match between Leon and Mexico City club
America. It will now be played Thursday night in the city of Queretaro, some
200 kilometers (125 miles) to the northwest.

A baseball game was also cancelled.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — close
allies in leftist ruling party Morena — have faced criticism over the
authorities’ delayed reaction.

“The government never takes (the pollution problem) seriously,” said
Graciela Zayas, 69.

Mexico City is prone to air pollution, both because of the mountains that
surround it — trapping smog overhead — and the capital’s polluting
industries and more than five million cars.

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