Indonesia fires bring haze to Singapore

By Lim Yi Han and Feng Zengkun | Source: ANN
Air quality still in healthy range; hazy condition to continue over weekend

The hazy skies and burning smell in the air across many parts of Singapore yesterday were caused by fires in Indonesia, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has said.

It added that some haze can be expected for the rest of the week, and it is monitoring the situation.

Even so, the air quality here remains healthy, according to the latest Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings at 4pm yesterday.

The index ranged from 28 to 43 across the island, within the “good” category. Air becomes unhealthy only when the index crosses 100.

Most people did not notice the haze until yesterday morning. Members of the public told The Straits Times there was a burning smell even indoors.

Undergraduate Kenneth Goh, 25, who lives in Tanjong Pagar, said: “I was by my window at home and I could smell it. The sky also looked gloomy and the view of the buildings around was quite blur.”

Yesterday’s daily PSI readings were an average of the previous 24 hours. That means the reading could have been worse at different times yesterday. In the past, when the haze was worse, the NEA issued a three-hour reading.

Earlier this month, Singapore also experienced haze because of hot spots in Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, which were experiencing their traditional dry season.

This time, fires in Sumatra were to blame. The haze and smell were brought here by prevailing winds blowing from the south-west and west, said the NEA. Sumatra is located about 400km south-west of Singapore.

According to the Meteorological Service Singapore website, the number of hot spots in Sumatra spiked from fewer than 20 on Sunday to about 130 on Monday, although the figure has since fallen.

Fires in Indonesia are typically caused by the dry season from June to September, and farmers and logging companies clearing land using fire.

But Indonesian news reports last month quoted a government spokesman as saying that this year’s dry season could begin as early as this month.

People with lung or heart conditions, children and the elderly should reduce or avoid strenuous outdoor exercise when there is haze, the NEA said.