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World & Nation

Mexico City’s air is so bad that schools, playgrounds and a zoo are closed

Extraordinary environmental alert activated at Mexico Valley, Mexico City - 15 May 2019
The Angel of Independence statue is nearly hidden by air pollution in Mexico City on May 15, 2019.
(Mario Guzman / EPA/Shutterstock)

Mexico’s Education Ministry canceled school in the capital and surrounding areas for Thursday as a result of a siege of air pollution.

Weather conditions at the end of Mexico’s dry season, combined with dozens of brushfires burning in and around the city, have produced a blanket of smoky haze.

The federal Environment Department said Wednesday that 3,800 firefighters are combating an average of about 100 fires a day in brush, scrub, agricultural and forest land throughout the country. Fire risk is highest in the spring for much of Mexico because the summer rainy season has not yet started.

Officials have warned that it could be harmful to at-risk people, especially because of high levels of tiny particles in the air. The haze triggered a pollution alert this week in Mexico City.

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Environmental officials announced the closure Thursday of a park and zoo on the south side of the city as well as children’s playgrounds in sprawling Chapultepec Park.

The conditions also led to the postponement of professional soccer and baseball games in Mexico City this week as well as the imposition of driving limits due to high ozone levels.

On Wednesday, the soccer league announced that a semifinal match between the U.S. and Leon that had already been postponed because of air quality would be moved out of the city and played in Queretaro on Thursday.

The league said its original backup plan was to play the game in Toluca, capital of neighboring Mexico state, but air quality there also is too poor.

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The National Autonomous University of Mexico also announced it would suspend all activities at its facilities in the metropolitan area Thursday.

About 20 million people live in the Mexico City metropolitan area.

Mexico is facing an extremely heavy season of brush and forest fires, with 4,425 blazes recorded so far this year. About 378,000 acres have burned, officials say.

On Monday, NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System featured images showing smoke plumes over southern Mexico in its #NASAWorldview Twitter feed.


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