SONGKHLA Governor Songpol Sawasditham set up a war room yesterday to combat the impact of smog from Indonesian forest fires, which reportedly saw tiny dust particles rising to 173 micrograms per cubic metre - well above safety levels.
While air-quality readings in many other southern provinces were within the maximum safety standard of 120mcg, local authorities were on alert and monitoring the situation closely.
Besides Songkhla's 173mcg, the Environment Region 16 Office in Songkhla yesterday morning reported other provinces' PM10 (particulate matter up to 10 micrometres in diameter) levels as: Surat Thani 52mcg, Phuket 53mcg, Yala 141mcg, Narathiwat 92mcg, Pattani 119mcg and Satun 151mcg.
Calling this smog the decade's worst impact compared with previous smogs that faded within four hours, office director Halem Jehmarikan said the PM10 level yesterday was above the standard, and the situation today would remain the same.
He said Songpol had set up a war room to provide aid to affected residents.
The director of Songkhlanagarind Hospital, Dr Thanarat Boonreung, said it was prepared to educate the public to protect themselves, while also preparing supplies to treat those affected, although there was no obvious increase in patients with respiratory ailments yet.
Disease control and prevention officials at Hat Yai Municipality and Mayor Prai Pattano yesterday distributed face masks to people at the Kimyong-Santisuk market and communities, and provided information on how to take care of their health during this period of haze.
The director of Songkhla's Disease Prevention Office 12, Dr Suwich Thampaolo urged residents - especially those with respiratory ailments, small children, pregnant women and seniors - to refrain from staying outdoors, to close all windows and doors, to wear face masks and see doctors if they felt chest tightness or had trouble breathing. Those needing help and information are advised to call the 1422 disease-control hotline. Jiranakorn Stadium in Hat Yai was temporarily closed yesterday because of the haze.
Nakhon Si Thammarat officials yesterday expressed concern after the smog also spread to that province, though road and air traffic was not yet affected.
Trang province reported that visibility levels had shrunk to only 700-1,000 metres. Trang Airport director Thaworn Saeng-ampai said the smog had not yet affected the 14 daily flights landing or taking off from the airport.
In Satun's seven districts, visible smog was present and some residents said they could sense a burning smell in the air despite some rainfall. Motorists - as well as ferry drivers to Lipe Island - had to drive cautiously and turn on headlights because of the poor visibility.
Smog also visibly covered Narathiwat province throughout yesterday, leaving residents worrying over the levels of tiny dust. They could continue to rise if there was no rainfall in the evening.