Haze returns here as fires in Indonesia rage

PHOTO: Haze returns here as fires in Indonesia rage

That burnt smell, the foggy blanket in the air - your senses have not deceived you: The haze is back in Singapore.

Singapore's National Environment Agency Pollution Standards Index (PSI) readings crossed into the unhealthy range in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The three-hour PSI was 102 at 1am and continued to rise through the night.

By 6am, the PSI hit 113, but fell slightly to 111 at 7am.

The reading tailed off after that and was 66 at 7pm, in the moderate range.

People with chronic lung and heart disease are advised to avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion.

Just last month, Singapore passed a law to punish polluters who cause the haze.

Firms will be fined for each day that they contribute to "unhealthy" haze. Unhealthy haze is defined in the new law as air quality having a PSI value of 101 or greater for 24 hours or more.

Polluting companies may be fined up to $100,000 a day, up to a maximum of $2 million.

The Indonesian authorities are also making plans for cloud-seeding operations to extinguish forest and plantation fires in South Sumatra and Riau that have raged for days and shrouded Singapore in the haze.

Erwin Mulyono - a scientist with Indonesia's Applied Technology Agency, which helps to strategise cloud-seeding operations - told The Straits Times: "We are communicating with BNPB (the National Disaster Mitigation Agency) now and will start arrangements to do cloud seeding. BNPB will make the call."

He added: "We have personnel ready in Pekanbaru and in Palembang right now. The aircraft (for the cloud-seeding operation) were in the Halim Air Force base (in Jakarta) yesterday and should soon be deployed there."

Haze over southern and central Sumatra in the past few days was mostly due to forest and plantation fires in South Sumatra.

The wind has been blowing in a north-easterly direction over Riau, as is typical for this time of the year, sending the haze in the direction of Singapore and the Malaysian peninsula.

Hourly air-quality readings in Malaysia yesterday morning have been either healthy or moderate so far.

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