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Western Belize suffocates under ‘Very Unhealthy’ smoke from wildfires and Saharan Dust

Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2024. 6:45 am CST.

By Horace Palacio: A hazardous cocktail of wildfire smoke and Saharan dust has plunged western Belize into an air quality crisis, with the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena experiencing “very unhealthy” levels of pollution. The air quality index (AQI) reading of 205 has triggered alarm bells, prompting health warnings and calls for urgent action.

Neighboring areas like Benque and Belmopan are also struggling with “unhealthy” air quality, though not as severe as San Ignacio/Santa Elena. The smoke, a combination of local wildfires and those raging across Central America and Mexico, has been exacerbated by the arrival of Saharan dust plumes.

Chief Meteorologist Ronald Gordon explained, “We’re seeing a mild amount of Saharan dust, but the main culprit is the smoke from extensive wildfires in Central America, particularly Nicaragua and Honduras. Satellite imagery reveals numerous hot spots, indicating widespread burning.”

The resulting smoke pollution has triggered a range of health complaints among residents, including respiratory issues, chest discomfort, and allergic reactions. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, are particularly at risk.

Authorities are advising residents to limit outdoor exposure, use air purifiers, and wear masks if venturing outside. Medical attention is recommended for those experiencing severe symptoms.

 

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