Air pollution in Singapore soared to record heights for a third consecutive day, as Indonesia dispatched planes and helicopters on Friday to battle raging fires blamed for hazardous levels of smoky haze in three countries.
The blazes in peat swamp forests on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island have sent massive plumes of smog across the sea to neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, both of which have grown impatient with Indonesia’s response to the problem that occurs nearly every year.
Singapore is suffering its worst haze in history. Its main air pollution index hit a measurement of 401 at midday on Friday, exceeding previous highs of 371 on Thursday and 321 on Wednesday, both of which were record readings. Those measurements were classified as “hazardous” and can aggravate respiratory ailments.
The index, which has fluctuated widely this week, eased to as low as 139 by Friday evening, still in an unhealthy range.
Singapore’s Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan flew to Jakarta on Friday to discuss measures to tackle the forest fires that break out in Indonesia during midyear — dry spells because of carelessly discarded cigarettes and illegal blazes set by plantations and farmers to clear land.
His Indonesian counterpart Balthasar Kambuaya pledged that Jakarta will investigate and take stern legal action against those who started fires.
Some Indonesian officials have suggested that Malaysian and Singaporean companies might be among those responsible.
The dirty, acrid haze has slashed visibility and shrouded many of Singapore’s towering landmarks, forcing airports to take extra precautions. — AP