US fire smoke reaches Europe
Hospital visits as smoke spreads across country
PARIS, Sept 16: Smoke from the fires devastating swathes of the US West Coast has reached as far as Europe, the European Union's climate monitoring service said Wednesday in its assessment of the "unprecedented" blazes.
Satellite data from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) showed that the wildfires currently raging across the east of the country, casting a haze over New York and Washington, California and Oregon. CAMS said that it had tracked the long-range transport of smoke particles from the fires as far as 8,000 kilometres to the east -- reaching northern Europe.
As deadly wildfires rage across the US West, Hunt and others are struggling with some of the world's worst air pollution. Hospitals in hard-hit Oregon report a 10% increase in emergency room visits for breathing problems. Doctors are being inundated with calls from worried patients. Air pollution, in the case of wildfire measured by the amount of fine particulate matter swirling in the air, is considered a serious health hazard linked to diseases including asthma, lung cancer, heart disease and early death.
Wildfire smoke mostly carries particulates from burning trees and plants, which are already harmful. The blazes have burned vast areas of land and killed at least 36 people since early August. Dozens of wildfires have burned across vast swathes of land on the West Coast since the start of August. Strong winds and low humidity have been hampering efforts to keep the blazes under control.
It estimated that the blazes, which are significantly more likely to occur as the planet warms, have spewed out more than 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide since mid-August. "The scale and magnitude of these fires are at a level much higher than any of the 18 years that our monitoring data covers" since 2003, said Mark Parrington, CMAS senior scientist and wildfire expert.
In Los Angeles, firefighters have been battling to protect the famous Mount Wilson Observatory - founded in 1904 - as a wildfire nears. In some parts of Oregon, air quality has been so hazardous that it has gone beyond the scale of the state's Air Quality Index.
Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio said the White House on Tuesday approved a request from the state's governor to declare a "major disaster" because of the fires. -AFP