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July 23, 2017

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Paris offers free public transport to tackle smog

PARIS -- Paris authorities said Thursday they would make public transport free for three days to encourage drivers to leave their vehicles behind due to severe pollution caused by unusually warm weather.

The French capital has been under maximum pollution alert for several days, as have more than 30 departments in the country, and the air is expected to remain exceptionally unhealthy until the end of the weekend.

The pollution has also affected other nearby countries, including Belgium where authorities have reduced the maximum speed allowed on main roads in a bid to reduce the strong concentration of polluting particles in the atmosphere.

Jean-Paul Huchon, head of the STIF organization that oversees transport in Paris and neighboring areas, said transport would be free from Friday morning to Sunday evening due to the "significant risks to the health of residents" posed by the pollution.

"I am asking all residents in Paris and neighboring areas to favor the use of public transport," he said.

By way of comparison, the overall air quality index in central Paris late on Thursday was roughly the same as that of Beijing, one of the most polluted cities in the world.

Overall, more than 30 departments in France were hit by maximum level pollution alerts, prompting Ecology Minister Philippe Martin to say air quality was "an emergency and a priority for the government."

The northern city of Caen also decided to make public transport free for three days through the weekend due to the pollution. Reims, a city in France's northeast, and Rouen in the northwest, are doing the same on Friday.

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