Singapore chokes on pollution high
Air pollution in Singapore has hit its worst level in nearly 16 years after smoke from neighbouring Indonesian forest fires drifted into its skies.
The Pollutant Standards Index, Singapore's main measure to determine air quality, crept into the "unhealthy" classification reaching a reading of 155, the highest level since late 1997, when it hit 226.
Smoke haze is a nearly annual problem for Singapore and its northern neighbour Malaysia, often beginning in the middle of the year when farmers in Indonesia seek to clear land cheaply by starting fires. The issue sometimes strains ties between the countries, with Malaysia and Singapore urging Indonesia to do more to prevent illegal burning.
Malaysia has been only lightly affected so far this year, with pollution readings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's largest city, not breaching the unhealthy mark. Indonesia has said part of the current problem is caused by peat blazes that firefighters are struggling to put out during hot, dry weather.
In Singapore, a defence ministry spokesman said the armed forces have "reduced physical and outdoor training accordingly" after the pollution index exceeded 100.
Resident Hedrick Kwan blamed the haze after his two young sons started coughing as an acrid smell of burning filled the air. "When they woke up today, it was worse," he said. "We usually leave the windows open but now we can't do that because of all the dust and smoke."
The National Environment Agency has advised Singaporeans, especially the elderly, young children and people with respiratory problems, to avoid prolonged exposure outdoors.