Toxic smog forces Bangkok to close hundreds of schools

Thai capital has been shrouded in murky haze for weeks, forcing residents to don masks and sparking criticism of government

Toxic smog forced Bangkok authorities to issue an unprecedented order to shut nearly 450 schools on Wednesday as authorities struggled to manage a pollution crisis that has stirred widespread concern.

The Thai capital has been shrouded in murky haze for weeks, forcing residents to don masks and sparking social media criticism of the uneven response by the government.

Reasons given for the lingering pall include exhaust from traffic, unfettered construction, the burning of crop stubble, and pollution from factories getting trapped in the city.

Authorities have seeded clouds to provoke rain, sprayed overpasses with water to catch micro-pollutants and even asked people not to burn incense sticks and paper during Chinese new year celebrations.

The measures so far have provoked derision from many Bangkok residents, while stocks of pollution masks have run out in many shops.

But on Wednesday the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration stepped up its health warnings, ordering all 437 city-controlled public schools to close from lunchtime until Friday, while designating 1,500 square kilometres (580 square miles) of the city a “control area”.

“The situation will be bad until February 3 to 4, so I decided to close schools,” said Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang, adding he hoped the move would also empty the road of cars on the school run.

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