Lao Airlines cancels northern flights over slash-and-burn haze

Lao Airlines cancels northern flights over slash-and-burn haze

19 March 2010

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Laos —  Lao Airlines cancelled flights on northern routes in Laos this week because of haze from agricultural burning, airline officials said Friday.

The national carrier’s flights between Vientiane and Oudomxay, Luang Namtha and Bokeo provinces have been cancelled since Tuesday because of thick smoke from slash-and-burn agricultural techniques, one airline official who asked to remain anonymous said.

“The smoke causes our pilots to lose a great deal of visibility, so they can only see for a distance of about 100 metres in the morning and about 1,500 metres in the afternoon, compared to normal visibility of 4,000 metres,” the official said.

Flights between Vientiane and Oudomxay resumed Thursday after heavy rain in the area helped clear the air.

Services to Luang Namtha and Bokeo remained cancelled.

“The bad weather conditions caused the airline to lose significant income because we had to provide passengers with a refund,” Lao Airlines marketing director Sitthideth Douangsithi said.

Thick smoke from slash-and-burn farming has caused haze and respiratory problems in Luang Prabang province while forest fires in neighbouring Thailand have created similar haze in the country’s northern provinces and tourist cities such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son.

Thailand, Laos and southern China have experienced unusually low rainfall since September, lowering the level of the Mekong River, which courses through the three countries, to its lowest level in 50 years.


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