Argentine officials suspended flights and closed highways around the country's capital after widespread grass fires in an agricultural region north of Buenos Aires sent a dense cloud of smoke over the densely populated area.
A dense cloud of smoke caused by grass fires shrouded the Argentine capital on Friday, forcing officials to suspend flights and close highways.
The smoke started to appear more than a week ago, but visibility deteriorated considerably on Friday and the pungent smell of smoke pervaded homes and offices, causing watery eyes and sore throats among city residents.
Officials have blamed road accidents that killed at least nine people on the grass fires in a rural area north of Buenos Aires. They have accused cattle ranchers of starting the fires as a way to rejuvenate grazing land cheaply.
"The fires aren't coincidental and they haven't been spreading by themselves," Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez was quoted as saying by state news agency Telam. He said officials were investigating who was responsible.
Flights from the capital's Jorge Newbery airport were suspended early on Friday and passengers waited in queues in the terminal, some with scarves over their mouths.
"After a few hours in Buenos Aires, we've got breathing problems, we've got a scarf over our mouths and sore eyes," Miguel, a Spanish tourist at the airport, told Reuters Television.
The national meteorological service said northerly winds would continue to carry the smoke toward the densely populated Buenos Aires area in the coming days.
The country's interior minister said on Thursday ranchers had caused fires across 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) of grazing land. The smoke has also affected neighboring Uruguay.
Date created : 2008-04-18