The Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyscrapers shrouded in orange and brown fog: Wildfires in Quebec obscure New York's famous “skyline” on Wednesday and make the air very difficult breathable for its 8.5 million inhabitants.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which controls air traffic, also announced at the start of the afternoon that flights departing from and arriving in New York were “slowed down” due to the excessive presence of smog in the region.
COVID masks have reappeared on the streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, like Hugh Hill who was walking his dog in Central Park, the gigantic green lung of the economic and cultural capital of the United States.
Eyes and throat that “sting”, this 43-year-old lawyer says he does everything to do not breathe too much of this air with its acrid smell, characteristic of burnt wood.
“I don't know if it's psychological or physical, but I know there are advantages to wearing a mask even if, obviously, it can't prevent everything,” he told AFP.
Since the beginning of the week, authorities in the city and state of New York have multiplied alert messages and started distributing masks.
“One of the worst” air qualities “in the world”
“I am saddened today to see that New York City, which usually enjoys good air quality, has one of the worst in the world because of these wildfires” in Canada, s is alarmed New York Senator Chuck Schumer, speaking Wednesday from the Senate in Washington, where he leads the Democratic majority.
The situation is even worse in the large upscale and green suburbs to the north from New York, along the Hudson River, where the sky turns yellow-orange-grey and the air scrapes your throat.
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said Wednesday's air quality index dropped from “harmful to “very harmful” and all outdoor school and extracurricular activities were suspended or suspended. limited “to what is strictly necessary”.
“This is not the day to train for the marathon”, warned, with his sense of understatement, the mayor of the City, Eric Adams.< /p>
According to the IQAir.com site, which monitors pollution levels across the planet, the index for New York reached “158”, with a concentration of PM2.5 microparticles at a level 14 times higher than the standards of the World Health Organization.
Tuesday evening, this index reached “218”, a record.
New York's most famous landmarks – Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center tower – do not stand out more as usual under a clear blue sky.
“Yesterday, when I came home from my lessons, I was breathing in smoke”, testifies to AFP Evangelia Antonakos, 47-year-old mathematics teacher, accompanied by her 5-year-old child also wearing a mask.
< p>Further south, the federal capital Washington also woke up on Wednesday to a pungent smell and hazy skies despite sunny weather.
“Air quality today will be harmful to the health of people with heart or respiratory disease, the elderly, children and adolescents,” according to local authorities.
As in New York and the state of Maryland, public schools have canceled outdoor activities for children, including sports.
The Air Quality Index in Washington was 199 Wednesday morning – on a scale of zero to 500 – a level considered “harmful” and which should continue Thursday.
And according to the site fire.airnow.gov, these are tens of millions of inhabitants of the northeast and the east of the United States (New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh,…) which are subject to very poor air quality this week.