The Chilean government is forcing more than 900 industries to temporarily shut down in the face of an air pollution emergency in the capital city of Santiago, according to a Reuters report.
The country’s Environment Ministry declared the official emergency on Monday. It will last 24 hours, but can be extended if the situation doesn’t improve. In addition to shutting down businesses, the emergency dictates that approximately 40 percent of the city’s 1.7 million cars be forced off the roads.
Though cities in China and India usually grab the most headlines for choking air pollution, Chile’s capital city is no stranger to smog. A 2014 study in the journal Environmental Pollution characterizes Santiago as “one of the cities with the most serious air pollution problems in the world,” particularly during the winter.
Emissions from a growing number of vehicles, manufacturing industries, and wood-burning heaters — combined with the fact that the city is surrounded by mountain ranges that prevent air drainage — leave Santiago particularly vulnerable.
Air quality does significantly improve in Santiago when it rains. But the city hasn’t gotten much precipitation lately. According to the BBC, this June has been the driest since 1968. Central Chile has been in severe drought since 2007, an unprecedented long-term phenomenon that scientists have linked to climate change.
The current smog emergency in Santiago is the city’s first since 1999. A similar situation in 1996 sparked an influenza epidemic in the city, hospitalizing 3,500 children every day, according to the Los Angeles Times.
For now, residents of Santiago are also being advised to avoid outdoor exercise. However, the nearby Estadio Nacional stadium is set to host six games of the Copa America soccer tournament starting Wednesday. According to Phys.org, matches are not allowed to be cancelled because of air quality.