Singapore anger as haze from Indonesia hits highest level this year

Image source, Tim McDonald
Image caption,
Singapore's port in the central business district seen during the haze and on a clear day

Anger is rising in Singapore as a thick haze engulfs the city-state, causing schools to be shut down.

On Friday morning, the Pollutants Standards Index (PSI) hit 341 - the highest level this year.

Singapore Foreign Minister K Shanmugam said late on Thursday that Indonesia was showing "complete disregard for our people, and their own".

The haze is caused by forests fires in Indonesia used to clear land for palm oil and rubber plantations.

The annual problem has been causing hazardous pollution levels across the region for weeks. Any PSI reading over 300 is considered hazardous to health.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Many people in Singapore have been wearing masks when outdoors
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The haze has repeatedly reached dangerous levels in Singapore in recent weeks

Indonesia has repeatedly said it is taking steps to prevent illegal forest burning. It has deployed troops to tackle the blazes, in Sumatra and on Indonesian Borneo, and says it is investigating 27 companies suspected of involvement in fires.

But Mr Shanmugam said on Facebook: "We are hearing some shocking statements made, at senior levels, from Indonesia," noting that PSI readings had reached nearly 2,000 in parts of Indonesia.

Media caption,
The BBC's Jerome Wirawan joins fire fighters in South Sumatra: ''This is peat land - the air is very thick with haze''

"How is it possible for senior people in government to issue such statements, without any regard for their people, or ours, and without any embarrassment, or sense of responsibility?"

He did not name any officials, but Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has angered some in recent weeks by saying Indonesia's neighbours should be grateful for the air quality for the other 11 months of the year.

Singapore and Indonesia use the Pollutants Standards Index (PSI) to measure air quality, while Malaysia uses the similar Air Pollutants Index (API). On both indices, a reading that is above 100 is classified as unhealthy and anything above 300 is hazardous.

Delivery suspended

Image caption,
Indonesia is usually visible from Singapore's coastline, but the coast itself was barely visible on Thursday

Emergency measures enacted in Singapore include the closing of all primary and secondary schools for the first time this haze season.

Free masks are also being distributed at community centres for the elderly and vulnerable.

Fast-food chains including McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut suspended their food delivery services on Thursday citing concerns for the health of their drivers.

Later on Friday the PSI dipped back below 300 and delivery services have since resumed.

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