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Wildfires burning around Mexico City are so intense smoke can be seen from outer space

By Manuel Crespo Feliciano, Accuweather en Español staff writer
May 16, 2019, 1:46:43 PM EDT


The imminent impact on the health of Mexicans continues to increase as a result of the wildfires roaring out of control in and around the country's capital over the past four days.

The Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis reported that the level of Extraordinary Atmospheric Environmental Contingency is being maintained due to dangerously high levels of ash particles and ozone in the Metropolitan Zone of the Valley of Mexico.

"The Government of Mexico continues the fight against fires. Given the impact on population, the Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis calls to reduce emissions from all sources, prevent and give notice to the authorities about wildfires, burning of garbage, tires, pyrotechnics and other events that generate polluting emissions," the agency said in a statement released on Wednesday.


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Although the emergency declaration was not accompanied by customary driving restrictions, it was later ordered that most cars leave the road from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., under the "Do not Travel Today" traffic control system.

The outlook is bleak given that a high pressure system is preventing the dispersion of pollutants, and high temperatures are prolonging the drought that has affected the country in recent months.

Mexico wildfires seen from space

According to the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), between May 9 and 13, 130 fires have been registered in the State of Mexico, 66 in Mexico City and more than 112 in Hidalgo and 87 in Morelos. (NOAA)


This week, the wildfires raging along Mexico's western coast and the blazes in and around Mexico City were billowing so much smoke into the atmosphere that the fumes could be seen by the NOAA-20 satellite's VIIRS instrument, which performs scans of the entire planet twice daily and sent back dramatic photos of the fires' impacts.

So far, about 600 people were evacuated from the rural area of Pinar de la Venta in Jalisco, Mexico, about 340 miles west of Mexico City, according to a local fire department. However, large metropolitan areas are more difficult to evacuate due to a greater population density.

As Roberto Muñoz, an independent consultant on environmental issues and society, said in an interview with CNN en Español, officials in the Mexican capital do not have a plan of response for wildfires, which is a situation that complicates evacuations in great metropolitan areas due to greater population.

Mexico fire Servicio Meteorológico Nacional, México


The pollutant that has registered the greatest increase is the particulate material -- ashes due to combustion -- with a higher incidence of particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5). These particles reached 158 micrograms per cubic meter of air at the Nezahualcoyotl measuring station.

The World Health Organization recommends a daily guide to air quality of less than 25. Annual averages above that amount are associated with greater risks of long-term mortality.

As a frame of reference, the most polluted capital city in the world, New Delhi, has an annual average of 113.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air, according to the World Air Quality Index project.

According to CONAFOR’s fire management director, Eduardo Cruz, there are still three more weeks of high risk of forest fires in Mexico.

"We are in the final period of the critical period of low water, we have three weeks of the dry period before the rainy season, three weeks of high risk, it is the final period of low water," Cruz said in an interview with Televisa News.

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