Thick haze a hazard

worldsingaporebeforeandafterSINGAPORE — Singapore’s prime minister has warned that the haze engulfing the city could last for weeks, as air pollution in the city-state soared to record levels.

The pollution standards index peaked at 371 today, breaking previous records and well above hazardous levels, before falling to about 300.

The haze is caused by illegal forest fires in Indonesia’s Sumatra island.

The issue has sparked accusations between the two neighbours over who is responsible for the smog.

Environment officials from the two nations are holding an emergency meeting in Jakarta today.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister, wrote on his Facebook wall that he would demand “definitive action” from Jakarta.

“No country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans’ health and wellbeing,” he said.

However, Indonesian Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono said that Singapore was “behaving like a child”.

“This is not what the Indonesian nation wants, it is because of nature,” he said.

Since the haze arrived, Singapore’s buildings have been obscured by the polluted air and the smell of burnt wood has permeated the city-state.

A PSI reading above 200 indicates “very unhealthy” air, while a PSI score above 300 is “hazardous”. Readings are being posted on the website of the National Environment Agency.

At a press conference, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the haze could “easily last for several weeks and quite possibly longer until the dry season ends in Sumatra”.

Lee asked Singaporeans to “stay indoors where possible and avoid heavy outdoor activities”.

He also announced that the Singaporean government would hold daily press conferences on the haze situation.

Air traffic controllers in Singapore have been told to work with extra caution given the poor visibility, while McDonald’s has temporarily cancelled its delivery service. (BBC)

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