The situation is deteriorating in the United States. More than 100 million Americans were now affected Wednesday night by air quality alerts because of smoke caused by fires in Canada, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said. As the thick smoke invaded New York, La Guardia airport had to suspend flights due to low visibility. Many flights are also experiencing delays. The winds allowed smoke to reach Montreal, Ottawa and Philadelphia in particular.
These air quality alerts cover most of the northeastern United States, from Chicago in the north to Atlanta in the south. Air quality in this area "is primarily impacted by Canadian fires, although other local pollution emissions and weather may also play a role," the EPA said.
The FAA halted flights bound for New York's LaGuardia Airport as smoke from Canada's wildfires cut visibility in the area. https://t.co/c3QmtBDBlQ pic.twitter.com/DQ1yMMjYnW
— CNBC (@CNBC) June 7, 2023
The populations concerned are under an "orange" alert, corresponding to a possible impact on the health of fragile people (the elderly, asthmatics, children ...), or an alert of a higher level. Many major cities, such as New York and Washington, were on a red alert Wednesday, a level at which the general population can also feel effects on their health -- effects then aggravated for frail people.
Still 100 fires out of control in Quebec
The EPA is the agency responsible for monitoring air quality in the United States, and uses an index ranging from zero to 500. Between 0 and 50, air quality is considered good. The orange alert corresponds to a level above 100.
On the flame front, concern is growing, especially in Quebec, which has become the epicentre of the forest fires that are engulfing much of Canada. He expects to have to evacuate thousands more people in the coming hours, the province's premier said Wednesday.
VIDEO. New York trapped by smoke coming straight out of Canada
In total, more than 11,000 Quebecers have already had to leave their homes, and the French-speaking province is preparing to evacuate an additional 4,000 people. After Alberta and Nova Scotia, it is Quebec's turn to be hit by fires "never seen": 150 fires are currently active, including a hundred deemed out of control.
And no heavy rain is expected until Monday night. "With the numbers we currently have, we can cover about 40 fires at the same time but there are 150 in operation," said Quebec Premier François Legault. "We need to focus on where it is most urgent," he continued. Canada as a whole is experiencing an unprecedented year: 2,293 forest fires were recorded and approximately 3.8 million hectares burned, well above the average of recent decades.