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Singapore PM says haze from Indonesia fires may last for weeks

He also warns of consequences if Singapore-linked companies are found responsible for the burning. -Reuters

Thu, Jun 20, 2013

SINGAPORE - A haze blanketing Singapore from fires in Indonesia could persist for weeks or even longer, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday, warning of consequences if Singapore-linked companies were found responsible for the burning.

The illegal burning of forests and other land on Indonesia's Sumatra island, to the west of Singapore, to clear space for palm oil plantations is a chronic problem, particularly during the June to September dry season.

"We cannot tell how the haze problem will develop. It can easily last for several weeks and quite possibly longer until the dry season ends in Sumatra," Lee told a press conference.

Singapore has provided satellite hotspot data and imagery to Indonesia to help identify those responsible, he said.

"Some Indonesian officials have suggested that these errant companies may be linked to Singapore and Malaysia," Lee said. "If any Singapore companies are involved, or companies which are present in Singapore are involved, we will take it up with them."

At 1 p.m. local time, Singapore's pollution standards index (PSI) soared to a new high of 371, indicating air quality was "hazardous".

The city-state, which prides itself on its clean environment and usually enjoys clear skies, saw its air quality deteriorate to unhealthy levels on Monday.

The top PSI readings in Singapore over the past two days have exceeded the peak of 226 reached in 1997 when smog from Indonesian fires disrupted shipping and air travel across Southeast Asia.

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