Millions of people in North America are under air quality advisories as wildfires rage throughout Canada, forcing evacuations, disrupting air travel, and creating apocalyptic, smoke-filled skies thousands of kilometres away.
The National Weather Service in the United States issued air quality advisories for the East Coast from New England to South Carolina, as well as sections of the Midwest including Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, on Thursday.
Health officials in more than a dozen US states have also warned residents that spending time outdoors could cause respiratory issues due to the high levels of fine particulates in the atmosphere.
Canada is experiencing its worst-ever start to wildfire season on record, experts have said, with blazes reported in nearly all the country’s provinces and territories since May.
More than 400 Canadian wildfires are still burning, particularly in the eastern province of Quebec, where approximately 150 fires were reported as of Thursday morning and some 13,500 people have been forced to evacuate.
However, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said during an afternoon news conference that the situation was ‘stable’ and no deaths or serious injuries had been reported so far.
He added, though, that it would take several more days before evacuees could go home.
‘It’s still exceptional given the intensity of the fires [that], to date, no loss of life, no serious injuries. That’s what’s most important, so continue to be careful,’ Legault told reporters in Quebec City.
The wildfires have brought orange-tinged skies to major Canadian and US metropolises, including New York City, where the iconic skyline was obscured earlier this week due to thick smoke and smog.
In the meantime, US President Joe Biden said his administration was ready to provide additional support to help Canada respond to the blazes.
The White House said in a statement that more than 600 firefighters and other personnel have been deployed to help their Canadian counterparts battle the flames, while further assistance was on the way.