Uncontrollable landfill site fire in Samut Prakan worsens air quality

Bangkok, Thailand, has seen the worst air pollution levels of the year so far today. An uncontrollable fire raging for two days straight at a rubbish dump in Samut Prakan province, just south of the capital, has pumped more PM2.5 dust into the air.

A fire has plagued a landfill site in the Phraeksa district since Tuesday night in an area covering more than 100 rai of land. Praeksa district firefighters deployed over 20 fire engines but the fire is still not under control two days later.

Local residents are complaining about suffering from a cough, sore throat, burning eyes, and a foul smell in the air. Residents are taking out their daily tasks with great difficulty amid the thick smog.

At 8am this morning, the Air Quality Index (AQI) measured a “very unhealthy” (purple) 262 in Samut Prakan. In Bangkok, levels hit an “unhealthy” 198 this morning (red).

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At 10am, Bangkok was ranked the third worst city in the world for air pollution.

The acting kindergarten director at Praksa Withedsuksa School, Thitiphat Boonterm, announced the closure of the school for at least two days due to the smoke clouding the area.

Firefighters said that part of the rubbish dump is a large swamp with rubbish floating in it. The swamp has prevented firefighters from bringing extinguishing equipment to all areas of the huge fire which continues to burn.

Richard Barrow, a British blogger, independent journalist, Thai train enthusiast, and teacher at Sriwittayapaknam School tweeted this morning…

“5:40am: US AQI 233 | PM2.5 183.2 µg/m³

This is the live air quality reading at our school before rush hour starts. This is the worst it has been for several years. Make sure you wear the proper mask if you’re venturing outside today.

One of my jobs at school is Pollution Control Officer. When I come into school, the first thing I do is check the air quality and then place the appropriate flag in the playground. We haven’t had “purple/very unhealthy” for so long that I cannot find that flag!”

On Monday, Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt attributed rising levels of dust in Bangkok to biomass burn-off in Cambodia.

Winds may very well be blowing dust from fires in Cambodia into the capital. But a fire that cannot be extinguished just down the road in Samut Prakan has pushed air pollution in the capital into crisis level.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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