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Tuesday, January 24

Europe, UK choke on winter smog as emergency measures go into effect


AFP Photo/PHILIPPE DESMAZES

AFP
January 24, 2017

Paris (AFP) - Heavy pollution enveloping much of Europe prompted emergency measures across the continent on Tuesday.

A toxic cocktail of extreme cold, no wind and heavy burning of coal and wood for heating has left many regions shrouded in smog.

In many countries, including Britain, France and Brussels, officials have cautioned against physical exertion for children and the elderly, and for people with respiratory problems.

Officials in Paris have ordered older, more polluting vehicles off the road since Monday, and cut the price of public transport.

Speed limits have also been reduced in many parts of France.

In London, a cloud of freezing smog forced the cancellation of around 100 out of 1,300 flights at Heathrow airport for the second day in a row, while Met Office forecasters had a "severe" warning in place for all of England.

Madrid has not issued an alert since a seven-day stretch of high pollution that ended January 1, which saw the city impose the first driving restrictions based on licence plates in Spain.

Eastern Europe has also been hit by blanket of smog, exacerbated by the heavy use of wood and coal during the cold snap.

Hungarian officials have issued pollution alerts for about 20 cities, including Budapest, where cars without catalytic converters have been forbidden from roads from Monday to Wednesday.

In Bulgaria, pollution has smothered the capital, Sofia, already considered one of the most polluted European capitals. But so far, officials have not imposed any specific restrictions.

Lawmakers in the Krakow region of Poland, considered the area with the dirtiest air in the country, approved Monday an anti-smog plan that calls for replacing the most polluting heating stoves by 2023.

Poland also plans to ban the use of low-quality coal -- an important but costly measure in a country where coal is used to heat 72 percent of homes.

Piotre Kopalka, 31, was among protesters who presented a petition calling on Warsaw to enact measures similar to those in Krakow.

"We want to live in a healthy city," he said, wearing a black robe and an anti-pollution mask, and carrying a scythe. "The situation in Warsaw is more and more worrying, we have to act."

[END REPORT]

"Black" Alert in London

All Londoners - including the fit and healthy - warned over breathing toxic air as [London Mayor] Sadiq Khan issues highest possible pollution alert

Londoners told to take measures to protect their health and schoolchildren told not to play outside
By NICHOLAS CECIL
Monday 23 January 2017
Evening Standard

Mayor Sadiq Khan today issued the first ever “very high” toxic air alert - telling millions of Londoners they may need to act to protect their health.

He took the unprecedented step after “black” - or 10/10 - readings for tiny particulate pollution were recorded before 6am at Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School, in the City area, Marylebone Road in Westminster, North Kensington and three sites in Camden - Swiss Cottage, Euston Road and Bloomsbury.

By 2pm, there were also 14 red “high” alerts for pollution peaks today at sites across London including in Richmond, Ealing, Brent, Enfield, Lambeth, Lewisham, Harrow, Havering, Merton, Sutton, Redbridge, Greenwich, Bexley, Tower Hamlets, and Thurrock.

Mr Khan said: “Today the shameful state of London’s toxic air has meant that I am forced to trigger the first ‘very high’ air pollution alert under my new comprehensive alert system. This is the highest level of alert and everyone - from the most vulnerable to the physically fit - may need to take precautions to protect themselves from the filthy air.”

[see map at website for areas of pollution level warnings]

[...]

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