A HUGE swathe of northern France, Paris and the centre-east of the country is on maximum alert as air-pollution levels remain dangerously high.
Alerts have been raised to their highest levels in Haute-Normandie, Calvados and Manche, as well as large portions of Poitou-Charentes (Vienne, Deux-Sèvres, Charente-Maritime), Nord/Pas de Calais, Picardie, Marne and Ardennes, Ile-de-France, most of the Central Region (l'Eure-et-Loir, Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher et le Loiret), and Rhône-Alpes.
The high pollution can trigger allergies, asthma attacks, and exacerbate problems of respiratory or cardio-vascular disease.
In Paris, the situation has prompted authorities to make 24-hour hire of Velib’ bikes free until the end of the alert in a bid to curb the number of vehicles adding to the problem. It is also allowing free residential parking, while Autolib’ hire will be free for an hour a day.
It will also stop the use of any municipal vehicles deemed unnecessary, prohibited fires, and urged people - particularly the young and the elderly - to take extra precautions.
Speed limits have been imposed across the Ile de France to limit emissions from vehicles. Since the beginning of the alert last week, police have issued more than 16,500 fines to drivers ignoring the lower speed limits.
The situation is expected to last until tomorrow at least in many regions.
A lack of wind and cold nights followed by balmy days have triggered rise in pollution, regional air monitoring centres. In addition, emissions from cars and from heating in buildings and factories have added to the problem.