Wed, Jun 24, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Chile’s pollution headache distracts from Copa America


An image taken from Cerro San Cristobal shows smog hovering over downtown Santiago on Monday.

Photo: AP

The streets were strangely empty on Monday in the Chilean capital, Santiago, where air pollution has forced authorities to declare an environmental emergency in the middle of the Copa America.

With 40 percent of the city’s vehicles ordered off the roads and 3,000 businesses closed, the normally bustling city of 6.7 million people was unusually traffic-free, despite hosting the South American soccer championship.

However, beneath a thick layer of fog, commuters crowded onto buses and subways to get to work after their normal rides were sidelined by the emergency decree.

Chilean Minister of Health Carmen Castillo called on Santiago’s population to “take care of children and the elderly” and recommended residents avoid going out unless absolutely necessary.

The pollution emergency — the city’s first in 16 years — was to run until 9pm, but with no improvement in air quality forecast for the next three days, it could be extended.

No Copa America matches were scheduled for Santiago on Monday or yesterday.

However, most of the teams taking part in the tournament are training in Santiago, and the quarter-final clash between the hosts and Uruguay is scheduled to be held there today.

Organizers have already said they would not reschedule any matches because of air pollution.

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