Map showing pollution from wildfires in California, 16 November 2018, 14:27:09 PST. Data: U.S. EPA PM2.5 AQI. Graphic: PurpleAir

16 November 2018 (BBC News) – Northern California's air quality has become the worst in the world, according to monitoring groups, as the state battles devastating fires.

Air quality network Purple Air said on Thursday the air is now worse than smoggy cities in India and China.

Schools have cancelled classes, flights have been delayed, and internet searches for smoke masks are soaring.

At least 63 people have died in the Camp Fire - the state's deadliest and most destructive blaze.

The number of missing people has jumped to more than 600, local authorities said, doubling the size of the list in a day.

Three more people have also died in the Woolsey Fire, further south. […]

How bad is the air?

The AirNow website ranks the air around San Francisco and Oakland as "very unhealthy", meaning everyone in the area could experience more serious health effects.

Around Elk Grove and Sacramento, it is classed as "hazardous" - the whole population is likely to be affected, their website states.

A San Francisco Chronicle reporter tweeted that breathing in San Francisco was equivalent to smoking nearly a dozen cigarettes. In Paradise, which was destroyed by the wildfire, it is closer to smoking 22 cigarettes.

Internet searches for smoke masks have reportedly skyrocketed, while schools and universities have cancelled classes and held recesses for students inside.

Health officials warned people to stay indoors rather than risk the smoke.

"Wearing a mask may encourage outdoor activity when staying indoors is the best way to minimize exposure to smoke," the Sacramento County Public Health Office said. [more]

California wildfires: Air quality rated 'world's worst'

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