By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Uncontrolled fires in Mexico City and the rest of the Valley of Mexico continued to contaminate the capital’s air quality throughout the weekend and into Monday, May 13, as government officials sought to contain the flames and investigate the source of the blazes.
As of Monday morning, there had been at least nine new fires reported in the Mexico City metropolitan area in the last 48 hours.
According to Mexico’s Atmospheric Monitoring System (Simat), by 9 p.m. Sunday, Air Quality Index (AQI) contamination levels in the south of the city reached 130 (101 to 159 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems, and higher levels are considered unhealthy or hazardous to everyone).
As a result, on Monday, the Public Education Secretariat (SEP) suspended all sports and outdoor activities for schools in Mexico City and surrounding areas.
A blanket of yellow smog was reported throughout most of the city, and the putrid smell of smoke filled the air.
On Sunday, new fires were reported in Insurgentes Norte, Colonia Miguel Aleman, Alcaldía Tlálpan, Naucalpan and Atizapán, where flames overran a local factory, according to the National Forest Commission (Conafor).
On Friday, five new fires broke out in Iztapalapa, Gustavo A. Madero and Santa Fe.
Mexican authorities believe that the main cause of the infernos have been a stifling heat wave that has engulfed the city, with temperatures reaching nearly 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), but they are still investigating possible incidences of arson, and over the weekend, at least one suspect was arrested on alleged charges.
In the last 12 days alone, Conafar has reported a total of 414 major fires in Mexico City, making it the third-most fire-prone region in the country, after the State of Mexico (Edoméx) and Michoacán.