Hazy conditions in Singapore to persist on Saturday

Channel NewsAsia 27 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE: Hazy conditions are expected to persist on Saturday (Aug 27), although there was some improvement in air quality, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said.

The improvement in the haze situation on Saturday morning was due to a slight shift in the direction of prevailing winds overnight from westerly to west-southwesterly, the agency said.

As of noon, the 24-hour PSI reading was 83-137, in the Moderate to Unhealthy range, and the 1-hour PM2.5 level was 36-121 µg/m3, in Band I to II (Normal to Elevated).

As the latest satellite image shows hotspots with haze still persisting in central Sumatra, hazy conditions are expected on Saturday. However, air quality is likely to improve in the evening, when prevailing winds are forecast to blow from the southwest, NEA said.

Overall, the PSI reading for the next 12 hours is forecast to be in the high end of the Moderate range or low end of the Unhealthy range. The 1-hour PM2.5 concentration over the next 12 hours is expected to fluctuate between Band I (Normal) and Band II (Elevated).

The health impact of haze is dependent on one’s health status, the PSI level, and the length and intensity of outdoor activity, NEA said, adding that reducing outdoor activities and physical exertion can help limit the ill effects from haze exposure.

"Given the air quality forecast for the next 12 hours, healthy people should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion.”

People who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention, NEA added.

- CNA/cy

Haze: PSI forecast to be in unhealthy range for next 24 hours, 11 hotspots detected in Sumatra
Today Online 27 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE — The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the unhealthy range, the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a 6pm update as hazy conditions persisted across the Republic.

The 1-hr PM2.5 concentration over the next 24 hours is also expected to fluctuate between Band II (Elevated) (56μg/m3 to 150μg/m3) and Band III (High) (151μg/m3 to 250μg/m3), said the NEA. “There could be a further deterioration in the air quality in the night should the westerly winds blow in denser haze from Sumatra.”

Singapore woke up to the smell of smoke burning in the air on Friday morning, due to smoke haze blown in from central Sumatra by the prevailing westerly winds, and it quickly became one of the top trending topic on Twitter and Google searches. Air quality was in the moderate to unhealthy range for most of the day.

A total of 11 hotspots were detected in Sumatra on Friday, and moderate to dense smoke haze from some of the hotspots in central Sumatra were observed to spread eastward toward Singapore.

The NEA said its Chief Executive Officer has written to his Indonesian counterpart to “register Singapore’s concerns over additional episodes of deterioration in air quality in Singapore should the fires continue”.

The NEA has “urged Indonesia to continue taking the necessary actions to prevent and mitigate the fires during this dry season, and asked for an update on the situation in Sumatra and Kalimantan”.

The NEA advised that healthy persons reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention.

With drier weather expected for the rest of the region, the NEA will issue daily haze advisories from Friday.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli posted on Facebook that he was “doubly disturbed that the haze shrouded us” as Singapore held a State Funeral Service for the late former President S R Nathan.

“This morning, we saw hazy skies and a strong burning smell across the island as the winds blew our way even when there were not as many hotspots as last year. The latest satellite image showed some hotspots were observed in central Sumatra. Localised smoke plumes were visible from the hotspots. The dry weather conditions in Sumatra also means that Singapore can expect smoke from fires due to the prevailing westerly winds in the region,” he said.

“But in the spirit that Mr Nathan has left us with, we will persevere even if slowly but surely to fight the scourge of haze produced by irresponsible concession land owners.”


NEA relays concerns to Jakarta as air quality worsens
Today Online 27 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE — With Singaporeans waking up to a smoky, hazy gloom on Friday (Aug 26) — one that worsened over the day — the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) chief executive officer has registered Singapore’s concerns with his Indonesian counterpart over air quality deteriorating, should fires in Indonesia continue.

Air quality, which hit the “unhealthy” range on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) on Friday — the first time this year — is expected to remain in this range on Saturday.

In a letter to his Indonesian counterpart on Friday, NEA CEO Ronnie Tay urged Indonesia to “continue taking the necessary actions to prevent and mitigate the fires during this dry season”, and asked for an update on the situation in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

As the 24-hour PSI reading crept into unhealthy territory — 101 to 200 — the NEA also made the unusual move of issuing three media advisories on the situation in a day — at about 11am, 2pm and 6pm. Singapore last experienced a prolonged period of unhealthy haze in October 2015.

At of 10pm on Friday, the 24-hr PSI is at 89-126, which is in the moderate to unhealthy range. The one-hour PM2.5 reading islandwide at 10pm was 28 to 108 — within the “Normal” to “Elevated” band — and down from a peak of 137 to 216 at noon. PM2.5, a pollutant, is very fine particulate matter, and the NEA introduced one-hour readings with bandings in June aimed at helping people interpret one-hour PM2.5 levels better.

The NEA said the smoky conditions on Friday was due to the smoke haze that was blown in from central Sumatra by the prevailing westerly winds. Eleven hotspots were detected in Sumatra.

A team of Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) researchers in Riau said their local sources found that the fires in northern Riau were not on concession lands. Five out of some 30 fires there are severe and could intensify and spread into concession areas, said SIIA director (policy programmes) Lee Chen Chen.

In its forecast for Saturday, NEA noted that the prevailing winds will blow mainly from the west and current hazy conditions are expected to persist. As such, the PSI for Saturday is expected to be in the “Unhealthy” range while the one-hour PM2.5 reading is expected to fluctuate between Band II (Elevated) and Band III (High).

With the authorities advising against prolonged or strenuous physical exertions outdoors on Friday, sales of N95 masks and haze-related products surged among some retailers.

NTUC Health Unity Pharmacy said Friday’s sale of facial and N95 masks were 10 times more than the daily average number of face masks sold. Their sale of eye drops and lozenges also increased on Friday.

Its director of wholesale Andy Wan added that their outlets have sufficient stock of face masks, and company is also monitoring stock levels to ensure they are quickly replenished from their warehouse.

Meanwhile, free haze kits from pharmacy chain Guardian were also fully redeemed by 2pm on Friday. Guardian Health & Beauty and GlaxoSmithKline had set aside 5,000 haze kits — containing Panadol, a bottle of water and a N95 mask — on Thursday to encourage consumers to stay prepared for the haze. Friday alone saw people snapping up 2,300 of these kits. Most Guardian stores had run out of masks due to the sudden spike in demand on Friday. But the company has arranged for emergency deliveries to key stores.

Mdm Lim Pik Luan, 62, a resident in the West, said she noticed the burning smell in the air when she woke up around 6am on Friday.

“I didn’t plan on heading out today. But looking at the haze situation, I don’t think I should be going out, especially with my grandchildren,” she added in Mandarin.


Hazy skies over several parts of Singapore
Channel NewsAsia 26 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE: A pall cloaked Singapore on Friday (Aug 26) as haze from central Sumatra was blown in by the prevailing westerly winds, according the the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Several people took to social media and called in to Channel NewsAsia to say that they detected a burning smell in various parts of Singapore. Readings on the 24-hour Pollutants Standards Index (PSI) crept into the Unhealthy range from 4pm, and was highest in the west at 7pm at 114.

The 1-hr PM2.5 readings, which peaked at 216 µg/m3 in the West at noon have since dropped to about 59 to 84.

The PSI incorporates six types of pollutants - sulphur dioxide, particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometres in diameter or smaller (PM2.5), particulate matter that is 10 micrometres in diameter or smaller (PM10), ozone, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. Of the six, PM2.5 is considered particularly hazardous as the small size of the particles enters the human lungs more easily.

PSI TO BE IN UNHEALTHY RANGE: NEA

In a statement at around 11.50am, NEA said the haze was likely to have been blown in by westerly winds over Singapore. A total of three hotspots were detected in central Sumatra on Thursday with localised smoke plumes were visible, the authority said, adding that the low hotspot count was due to cloudy conditions.
By 6pm, NEA said the overall PSI for the next 24 hours is forecast to be in the Unhealthy range and that the 1-hr PM2.5 concentration is expected to fluctuate between Elevated and High.

National University of Singapore Assistant Professor of Geography Winston Chow said the haze was caused by a change in wind direction from southerly or southwesterly to westerly winds on Friday morning, combined with hotspots in central Sumatra that generated smoke plumes that were carried over the Malacca Straits.

He also said how long the haze would last in the immediate term would depend on the wind direction as Singapore would be affected by plumes from central Sumatra as long as there were westerly winds. "That said, it’s forecast that there is a likely change in wind direction over the next few days to a more south or southeasterly direction, which should improve air quality as long as there are no hotspots and smoke plumes from South Sumatra or West Kalimantan."

7,000 PERSONNEL ON THE GROUND TO FIGHT FIRES: INDONESIA

Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said on Friday evening that the haze which appeared in Singapore skies was from forest fires in Indonesia's Riau province.

In a statement, BNPB said that monitoring posts on the ground had reported 67 hotspots in the province, with most of the hotspots from the Rokan Hilir district.

BNPB said that efforts to put out the fires in Riau were continuing, and that more than 7,000 personnel were on the ground to extinguish the flames. Assets to conduct water bombing, including three helicopters and two Air Tractors aircraft, have been deployed. One Casa aircraft has been mobilised for cloud seeding operations.

The Chief Executive Officer of NEA has written to his Indonesian counterpart to register concern. "NEA urged Indonesia to continue taking the necessary actions to prevent and mitigate the fires during this dry season, and asked for an update on the situation in Sumatra and Kalimantan," the agency said.

Back in March this year, when a burning smell was detected in some parts of Singapore, the NEA said it could have been caused by some local vegetation fires.

It added that fires and some wind convergence over Singapore could have also contributed to the deterioration in the air quality in some parts of the island.

NEA said on Friday that the health impact of haze was dependent on one’s health status, the PSI level, and the length and intensity of outdoor activity.

"Given the air quality forecast for the next 12 hours, everyone can continue with normal activities. Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention."

- CNA/mn


NEA CEO writes to Indonesia to register concerns over haze
Channel NewsAsia 26 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE: The Chief Executive Officer of the National Environment Agency on Friday (Aug 26) wrote to his Indonesian counterpart to register Singapore's concerns over additional episodes of deterioration in air quality in Singapore, should fires in Indonesia continue.

In a media statement, NEA said its CEO "urged Indonesia to continue taking the necessary actions to prevent and mitigate the fires during this dry season, and asked for an update on the situation in Sumatra and Kalimantan".

This comes after hazy skies were spotted across Singapore on Friday. NEA added that 11 hotspots were detected in Sumatra on Friday, and moderate to dense smoke haze from some of the hotspots were observed to spread eastward towards Singapore.

NEA said in a statement on Friday afternoon that hazy conditions have persisted as haze from central Sumatra continued to be blown in by the prevailing westerly winds.

Hazy conditions in Singapore continued to worsen throughout Friday.

As of 6pm, the Pollutants Standards Index in Singapore was in the Moderate to Unhealthy range at 82-112, the 3-hour PSI was 127, while the 1-hour PM2.5 was in the Elevated range islandwide, at 69 to 85.

NEA said overall, the PSI for the next 24 hours is forecast to be in the "Unhealthy" range and the 1-hour PM2.5 is expected to fluctuate between "Elevated" and "High".

- CNA/dl


Organisers adopt wait-and-see approach for weekend mass events due to haze
AMANPREET SINGH Today Online 26 Aug 16;

SINGAPORE — Organisers of mass sporting events scheduled for this weekend are adopting a wait-and-see approach before they decide whether to call off their activities because of the haze, which worsened on Friday (Aug 26) morning.

As of 6 pm on Friday, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was at 82-112, which is in the unhealthy level.

Puma Singapore said on Friday that they will cancel Saturday’s Puma Night Run if the 24-hour PSI exceeds 200 at 5pm.

The run, which will be held at Seletar Aerospace Park, is scheduled to begin at 6 pm for the 12km Men’s and Women’s Open categories, and at 7pm for the 6km Men’s and Women’s Open.

In a statement issued on Friday, they said: “The safety and health of participants, volunteers and staff are of utmost importance and Puma will adopt the following measures based on the 24-hour PSI reading at 5pm on Saturday.

“If the overall Singapore 24-hour PSI exceeds 200, PUMA Night Run Singapore 2016 for both 6km and 12km will be cancelled.

“If the 24-hour PSI falls between 100 to 200, Puma Night Run Singapore 2016 will be converted into a 6km walk for both 6km and 12km categories. Flag-off timing will remain the same.”

However, activities at the race village will continue as planned.

The Puma Night Run, which made its debut at Sentosa in 2014, was almost cancelled last year due to the haze, but eventually went ahead at the Marina Barrage area.

Puma also announced that participants can collect their finishers’ medals at the race village if the event is cancelled.

“Alternative arrangements will also be made for participants to collect their finisher medals at a later date. Details for the later collection will be announced shortly,” it said.

Participants can refer to the event’s official website (www.puma-nightrun.com.sg) and PUMA’s Facebook page by 5pm on Saturday for further information. An SMS notification will also be sent to all participants.

Meanwhile, organisers of the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon, which will take place on Sunday, are monitoring the haze situation and have advised participants to check the event’s Facebook page for any further updates.

National sports governing body Sport Singapore (SportSG) announced on Friday that all outdoor and non-air-conditioned facilities at its ActiveSG Centres would be closed to the public if the 24 hour PSI is above 200, while air-conditioned sports halls and gyms will stay open during this period.

SportSG will assess and re-open the facilities when haze conditions improve.

However, the ActiveSG football academy will cancel their training sessions if the 24-hour PSI is above 100 at 7am on Saturday. If the session is already underway, the coaches will stop the training immediately any time the PSI crosses 100.

The public can refer to the official ActiveSG website (www.myactivesg.com/news/2015/9/health-advisory-on-haze) for the latest updates on the haze and closures of MyActiveSG sports centres, or the MyActiveSG Facebook page. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NOAH TAN.


Masks fly off shop shelves as smoke shrouds S'pore
Melissa Lin, The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Aug 16;

Grey skies and a familiar burning smell greeted Singaporeans yesterday morning as the haze made a return.

On the streets, people young and old were seen wearing face masks, while others held cloth over their mouths and noses. The sudden spike in demand for N95 masks yesterday caught retailers by surprise, with some shops running out of stock in the middle of the day.

N95 masks can filter out fine particles found in the haze.

Air quality is forecast to be in the unhealthy range today, the National Environment Agency said. Air quality is considered unhealthy when the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading is in the range of 101 to 200, and hazardous when it is above 300.

It was between 84 and 114 at 7pm yesterday, with western Singapore registering the highest reading.

Accountant Muhammad Kader, 26, said he might cancel his plans to visit the Singapore Night Festival this weekend if the haze worsens. "It's quite bad. The haze just came overnight," he said.

The sudden onset of haze prompted at least one school, Methodist Girls' School, to issue an advisory to parents on the precautions it has put in place. This included switching on air purifiers in classrooms when air quality hits the unhealthy or elevated range.

Many people took to social media to share photographs of skylines shrouded in smoke, from Jurong in the west to Katong in the east.

Taxi driver Francis Ong, 65, said he figured it was the start of the hazy season when he woke up to the smell of smoke. "I'll try to stay indoors because it's difficult to breathe outside," he said.

Yesterday, some 2,300 free haze kits given out by Guardian pharmacy - which included an N95 mask and a bottle of water - were snapped up by 2pm. Sales of masks also soared.

"Although we were prepared for the haze to return and had arranged for a good level of stocks at all stores, the speed of the demand spike resulted in most stores running out of stock very fast," said Guardian's chief executive, Ms Sarah Boyd.

The pharmacy has arranged for emergency deliveries of masks, lozenges, eye drops and analgesics to some stores over the next two to three days.

Shopping site Lazada, which noticed a spike in sales of air purifiers and N95 masks, has launched a campaign that offers next-day delivery of these items. Delivery usually takes two to three days.

Singapore Post issued masks and eye drops to its outdoor delivery staff and temporarily redeployed those with respiratory or heart conditions or who are above 65 years of age to indoor work.

Still, the haze did not stop ardent fans of location-based augmented reality game Pokemon Go. They were spotted out and about in a Pokemon hot spot in Hougang.

Singapore suffered one of its worst bouts of haze last year.

In September, readings reached hazardous levels, leading to the closure of primary and secondary schools for a day.

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