• Sat
  • Sep 20, 2014
  • Updated: 6:41am
NewsAsia
SINGAPORE

Singapore smog from fires in Indonesia hits a record level for third day running

Choking blanket from forest fires in Indonesia continues to shroud city state; Jakarta uses helicopters to create rain to fight the flames

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 9:59pm

Air pollution in Singapore soared to record heights for a third consecutive day, and Indonesia prepared planes and helicopters to battle raging fires blamed for hazardous levels of smog in three countries.

Singapore's main index for air pollution hit a measurement of 401 at midday yesterday.

That exceeded previous highs of 371 on Thursday and 321 on Wednesday, both of which were record readings. Those measurements were classified as "hazardous" and could aggravate respiratory ailments.

Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency said it plans to use two helicopters in a "water-bombing" operation to assist more than 100 firefighters on the ground.

Indonesia also deployed helicopters to artificially create rain.

At an emergency late-night meeting, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered disaster officials to "immediately mobilise all the country's resources" to extinguish the fires on Sumatra island that have created vast palls of smoke.

Indonesia's disaster agency said two helicopters with cloud-seeding equipment were sent early yesterday from Jakarta and Borneo island to Riau province, where hundreds of hectares of carbon-rich peatland are ablaze.

"Hopefully, we will be able to create artificial rain today," said agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

Firefighters tackling blazes in Bengkalis district, the worst hit area, were "overwhelmed" and unable to cope, said Ahmad Saerozi, head of the conservation agency in Riau province.

"We have been fighting fires 24 hours a day for two weeks," he said, adding that aircraft must drop water as soon as possible. "We can't do this alone," he said.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday he expressed "serious concern" in a letter to Yudhoyono and requested evidence that Singaporean or Malaysian companies were responsible for the "illegal burning", as suggested by some Indonesian officials.

Disputes between the two neighbours flare up regularly over haze. The Malay Peninsula has been plagued for decades by forest fires in Sumatra to the west and Kalimantan on Borneo island to the east.

"Singapore should not be behaving like a child and making all this noise," Agung Laksono, the minister co-ordinating Indonesia's response to the haze, said on Thursday.

Officials had detected 60 hot spots in Riau, Nugroho said, down from 148 two days ago, with 80 per cent of those in plantations and 20 per cent in forests. Singapore has provided satellite data to help identify the companies responsible for the fires.

Malaysian Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister James Dawos Mamit said his country was willing to send firefighters.

"If they need our help, we will offer whatever assistance we can," Dawos said.

Lower visibility from the smog has prompted Singapore's Changi Airport to increase the time between take-offs and landings, the aviation authority said.

The Singapore Flyer, which operates the city state's ferris wheel, suspended operations yesterday.

And the Singapore Shipping Association warned yesterday that the smog could lead to accidents in the busy Malacca and Singapore straits, risking a potentially devastating oil spill.

In Malaysia, officials closed nearly 600 schools in southern districts near Singapore. Most of Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, was not as badly affected, though two southernmost towns recorded hazardous air quality.

Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press

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thung01
It's utterly unbelievable, and yet true, that year after year Singapore and Malaysia have had to endure weeks of hazardous and ruinous air pollution caused by their irresponsible neighbour. Indonesia has never done anything concrete to put a stop to the forest burning, or arrest and punish the culprits. How hard can it be to stop it, when it's all taking place in the open? To add insult to injury, the Indonesian government had the gall to say that Singapore (who was understandably angry) was "behaving like a child and making all this noise". Why doesn't Indonesia start behaving like a civilised, responsible country rather than a crass bully? Just because it's bigger than its neighbours, does it expect to get away with anything? In spite of all its recent efforts to 'sell' its image as a progressive country, Indonesia has again proved itself truly backward.
Sugelanren
Soon be time for all the expats who moved from Hong Kong to Singapore for better air, to come back
rao.nasir.900
If you think Wayne`s story is flabbergasting..., 5 weaks-ago my mom basically brought in $7437 just sitting there a eighteen hour week from home and the're classmate's mom`s neighbour did this for nine months and brought home more than $7437 in their spare time On there laptop. apply the instructions on this address....... Cat48.com
newgalileo
Sorry for our S'pore friends. Here in Beijing we are used to that, without forest fires. Pollution average is around 150 (at least) and values 300 to 400 are not exactly special.
onedistrict
That's unthinkable for a modern green city
 
 
 
 
 

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