PSI hits 155 at 10pm

SINGAPORE - The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit 155 at 10pm, nearly 100 points higher than the PSI level of 56 at 7am today and well above  the "unhealthy" threshold of 101 and above .

This is the highest since 1997, when the index reached 226.

Since this morning, conditions have been visibly hazy and a strong burning smell has been detected across many parts of Singapore.

The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading as of 4pm today was in the range of 68 to 83, which is in the "moderate" range. The three-hour PSI reading soared to 117 at 7pm.

It has since shot up to 140 at 8pm and 152 at 9pm.

Earlier, the National Environment Agency (NEA) had alerted the Indonesian Ministry of Environment on the haze situation in Singapore, urging Indonesia to look into urgent measures to mitigate the trans-boundary haze occurrence.

But the Indonesian forestry ministry said firefighters were already tackling the blazes and water-dropping aircraft would only be deployed if local governors made a request, which they had yet to do.

Ministry official Hadi Daryanto attempted to shift some of the blame onto Malaysia and Singapore, saying their palm oil companies that had invested in Indonesia were also responsible.

"We hope the governments of Malaysia and Singapore will tell their investors to adopt proper measures so we can solve this problem together," he said.

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NEA said that drier weather conditions in the region have led to an escalation in hot-spot activities mainly over central Sumatra. The number of hot-spots detected over Sumatra has risen from 101 hot-spots on June 15 to 138 hot-spots on June 16.

It explained that the smoke from the fires in Sumatra was brought over by prevailing winds blowing from the southwest or west, and has affected Singapore since June 13.

The agency said that the hazy conditions are expected to persist for the next few days, as occasional extended periods of drier weather in the region is probable in the coming months.

Given the current hazy conditions, NEA advised children, the elderly and those with heart or lung diseases to reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor activities.

Singaporean doctor Ong Kian Chung, a respiratory specialist at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, told Reuters that he expected a surge in patients in the coming days if the haze stays at current levels.

"The usual complaints during haze are throat irritation, eye irritation, cough and difficulty breathing," he said.

Those who have pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma and chronic bronchitis are more at risk, he said.

Business and air transport have so far not been affected. 

However, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) earlier today reminded employers that they must ensure the safety and health of employees who work outdoors against the unhealthy effects of the haze. They were urged to minimise strenuous work outdoors as the haze situation worsened in Singapore.

NEA will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide further updates when necessary.

With additional reporting from Reuters.

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