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One World Trade Center in yellow smoke: cause are fires in Canada

Photo: Julie Jacobson / AP

Because of the severe wildfires in Canada, more than 100 million people in the U.S. are affected by increased air quality health alert levels. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told AFP, the warnings affect the farthest part of the northeastern United States and extend west to Chicago and south to Atlanta. For those affected, therefore, the warning level orange or higher applies.

Alert level orange corresponds to air pollution that could have an impact on the health of sensitive population groups, i.e. could harm the elderly or children in particular. Many major cities, such as New York and Washington, were hit by a higher, red alert on Wednesday, in which air quality is also considered unhealthy for the general population.

  • You can read here how dangerous the smoke particles can be.

The forest fires, which have been raging in Canada for weeks, are considered the main cause, it is said. However, locally emitted pollutant emissions and the weather could also play a role. The New York Weather Service posted images on Twitter showing the evolution of the air in a short period of time.

A video is circulating in which the other bank of the Harlem River in New York can hardly be seen.

New Yorkers shared images of the polluted sky on social media.

The governor of the state of New York, Kathy Hochul, spoke of an "emergency crisis". The condition could also last for several days. "People have to prepare for a long period of time." The population in New York was urged to stay indoors as much as possible and close the windows. At schools and kindergartens, all outdoor activities have been cancelled, and many other open-air events have also been cancelled.

Manhattan's borough mayor, Mark Levine, said, "Air quality is deteriorating rapidly." The measured value is "now more than twice as high as the highest degree of health hazard on the scale of the U.S. government."

Severe forest fires have been blazing in Canada for weeks. This year, more than 2200 fires have already been registered, and around 3.8 million hectares of forest have burned down. Winds carry the smoke particles to the southern neighbor USA. In Canada's metropolises of Ottawa and Toronto, as well as in the US states of Minnesota and Massachusetts, authorities also warned residents of bad air.

According to experts, the frequency and severity of forest fires has increased due to global warming. The White House said that President Joe Biden had also been briefed on the situation. "It's another alarming example of how the climate crisis is affecting our lives and communities," said spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.