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Haze pushes Singapore's air pollution to "hazardous" level again


08:28, June 21, 2013

SINGAPORE, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Singapore's air pollution index soared to a record high on Thursday, pushed by the transboundary haze resulting from forest fires in neighboring Indonesia.

There is a visibly severe smog and a burning smell in the air, as the three-hour pollutant standards index (PSI) soaring to a fresh high of 371 at 1:00 p.m. local time on Thursday, putting the air quality in the range of being "hazardous."

The three-hour PSI had stayed above the unhealthy level of 100 most of the time since Monday. It soared to an unprecedented " hazardous" level of 321 on Wednesday evening.

A reading above 100 means that the air quality is "unhealthy," and a reading above 200 is "very unhealthy." It is considered " hazardous" if the reading hits 300.

The previous worst smog reading was 226 in 1997.

The sale of masks soared in the city state, with the National Environment Agency advising children, the elderly and those with heart or lung diseases to avoid outdoor activities. Others are also advised to limit prolonged or heavy outdoor activities.

The haze was largely a result of fire used to burn bushes on Sumatra so that the land can be utilized for agricultural purposes.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore authorities have voiced their concerns with Indonesia and urged its neighbor to take tougher actions to reduce the haze.

Singapore's Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said earlier on Wednesday that Singaporeans are "very frustrated, angry and distressed about the situation."

Indonesia has tough laws against bush burning but has problems with the enforcement of the laws, he said.

The transboundary haze also led to a spat between the governments of Singapore and Indonesia. Indonesia's minister coordinating response to the haze crisis Agung Laksono told reporters in Jakarta that "Singapore should not be behaving like a child and making all this noise."

"This is not what the Indonesian nation wants, it is because of nature," he was quoted as saying.

The comments came as the neighbors prepared to hold emergency talks in Jakarta to ease the severe smog enveloping the city state.

Singapore's National Environment Agency said the haze has been affecting Singapore since June 13. The hazy conditions are expected to persist for a few days, it said.

Some of the schools have cut short outdoor activities. Local supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice issued face masks to all of its pump attendants at its petrol stations.

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