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Thick haze sweeps through Singapore

Singapore, Jun 20, 2013 (PTI)
A woman wears a mask in a haze blanketed the Singapore Central Business District, or CBD in the background on Thursday, June 20, 2013. A smoky haze triggered by forest fires in neighboring Indonesia has caused air pollution to briefly hit its worst level in nearly 16 years in Singapore. (AP Photo

Smoke from forest fires in Indonesia has choked Singapore, prompting authorities here to take precautionary measures following the worsening pollution level in the city-state.

The haze, blown from fires in Sumatra Island, hit Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia over the weekend and lifted air-pollution indexes.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said its air traffic controllers have increased the separation between flight takeoffs and landings as an added precautionary measure following the worsening haze situation in the city state, Channel News Asia reported today.

CAAS explained that the Runway Visual Range (RVR) reading has dropped to levels lower than 1,500 metres due to the haze.

RVR is a measurement of the horizontal visibility along the runway or the range over which the pilot of an aircraft can see along the runway.

CAAS said a high air Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) may cause the RVR value to fall and therefore may impact flight operations.

Last night Singapore registered PSI of 321.

The air becomes "very unhealthy" if PSI past 200 mark and "hazardous" past 300.
The air quality in Muar city in southern Peninsular Malaysia was hazardous with the air pollutant index (API) reading hitting 337.

In 1997, the RVR was lowest at 800 metres during the worst haze environment but flight operations were maintained then.

Minister of Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said the haze was set to persist over the next few days, and whether a stop-work order would be issued would depend on the severity of the haze conditions.

Balakrishnan pointed out that this was the worst haze hitting Singapore. Sports facilities and schools might be closed if needed.

The Health Ministry has advised Singaporeans to limit prolonged or heavy outdoor activities.

Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) Chief Executive Officer Andrew Tan is leading a delegation to Jakarta today for an emergency haze meeting convened by the Indonesian Foreign Ministry.


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