21 June, 2013

Singapore smog index exceeds critical level

Australia Network News - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Fri Jun 21, 2013

Singapore's smog index has passed the critical 400 level, making it potentially life-threatening for people who are ill or elderly.

The sun is partly covered by haze over Marina Bay Sands hotels and convention centre in Singapore on June 19, 2013. Singapore's Pollutant Standards Index again shot above the "unhealthy" threshold of 152. AFP: Roslan Rahman
The record level was reached at about 1:00pm AEST after a rapid rise in the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), which measures the haze crisis caused by Indonesian forest fires.

Indonesian and Singaporean officials have been holding emergency talks on how to extinguish the fires on farms and plantations on Sumatra island, which are also affecting Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has sent helicopters to create artificial rain in an effort to fight the fires that are causing the smog in Singapore and Malaysia.

AUDIO: Singapore Haze Update (ABC News)
According to Singapore government guidelines, sustained PSI average levels above 400 on a 24-hour basis "may be life-threatening to ill and elderly persons".

General practitioner Philip Koh said he had seen a 20 per cent spike in consultations in the past week.

Mr Koh estimates about 80 per cent of his patients are suffering from haze-related ailments.

"My patients are telling me they are worried about how long this is going to last and how much higher this is going to go," he said.

Mr Koh said many people were turning to his clinic to buy protective masks, as supplies are low at retailers.

"Our supplies are running low here too," he said.

Ashleigh Nghiem, an Australian producer working for the BBC in Singapore, has spoken to Radio Australia's Asia Pacific about the condition in the city's Central Financial District.

"There are people coming out from work and many of the commuters here tonight are wearing face masks," she said.

"Four days ago, when this crisis began, hardly anyone was seen wearing a facemask.

"Now, people are doing what they can to protect themselves because they just don't see any way in which this smog is going to be cleared soon."

The government has advised all children, elderly people and persons with existing diseases to stay indoors, keep windows closed and avoid physical exertion if the 400 index average is sustained over a 24-hour period.


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