SCDF, NEA investigating 'strong burning smell' in many parts of Singapore

Jalelah Abu Baker Channel NewsAsia 25 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE: Residents in many parts of Singapore - from the north-eastern areas to the west - have complained of a strong burning smell that started on Monday afternoon (Sep 25), prompting an investigation by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and National Environment Agency (NEA).

As of 11pm, there is still no word on the source of the smell but the SCDF said in a tweet that no toxic industrial chemicals were detected in the air.

"SCDF (is) monitoring (the) situation closely," it tweeted. "There's been no confirmed incident," it said in an earlier Facebook post.

NEA said that air quality levels "were found to be well within safety limits" in the Sengkang and Punggol areas despite the strong smell.

Convergence of winds over the northern half of Singapore might have led to the "accumulation of smells" there, it said.

"Winds are expected to turn to blow from the south or south-east later tonight, which will help to disperse any smells in the area," NEA said, adding that it will continue to monitor the situation.

Residents in Sengkang, Hougang and Buangkok were among the first to report a strong smell from as early as 4.30pm, before similar complaints came in from people living in Bishan and Ang Mo Kio. They described it as a foul smell, "chemical-like" and choking. Some also reported hazy conditions in the area.

This later appeared to spread to areas in the west, including Holland and Commonwealth.

When Channel NewsAsia arrived at Commonwealth MRT station at about 9pm, the burning smell in the air was strong. Some residents said they could not breathe normally.

Ms Alicia Zee, 44, who was returning to her home in Commonwealth, said she noticed the smell at about 7pm while she was at Holland Village.

"People were talking about it. It's making it quite hard to breathe," she said.

Another resident thought that it was the haze, but according to the NEA website, air quality was normal as at 9pm.

Sengkang resident Muhammad Zulkefly, 29, said the smell in his area started around 5pm. "It smelt like petroleum, and that was disturbing. I had trouble breathing," he said.

Another resident in Sengkang West, Ms Linda Lian, said it smelled like "burnt rubber or some unknown chemical".

In Hougang, Facebook user Maria Sariff said the smell was "very strong" and was "like plastic burning".

"So there's this terrible smell in Buangkok area ... Fernvale also. Looks hazy and smells like oil or something, not the usual haze smell," Ms Angela Marie Oehlers told Channel NewsAsia.

In the evening, residents in Serangoon and Ang Mo Kio started complaining of a strong smell as well.

A resident in Serangoon who only wanted to be identified as Mrs Ho said: "We were having dinner when the smell came very quickly at about 7.40pm. It was very strong. We had to close all the windows immediately." She added that the smell was gone by about 8.20pm.

Ang Mo Kio resident Ms Chan Yoke Yee said she noticed the smell at about 7pm as she was coming out from the MRT station.

"It's giving me a headache," she told Channel NewsAsia. Like residents in Serangoon, she said that the smell was almost gone by about 8.20pm.

Residents in the west started noticing the smell later in the evening. Ms Michelle Tng Ying, who lives in the Holland area, said she noticed a strange smell at about 8pm.

"I thought it was something burning in my own house as I had my oven turned on, but then when I stepped onto the balcony, the smell got stronger - smelt like really strong paint," the 29-year-old said.


Caught a whiff of a 'gas-like' odour? Don't worry, say SCDF and NEA
Today Online 25 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE — The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has assured citizens that there has been no presence of "Toxic Industrial Chemicals in the air" in the North-Eastern part of Singapore, following calls about the smell of gas or burning material there.

Complaints about the odour appeared on the online forums such as Reddit and Hardware Zone at about 5pm. Many netizens said that the smell appeared to be largely confined to the North-Eastern parts of Singapore in areas like Sengkang, Hougang, Buangkok and Ang Mo Kio.

SCDF said it has deployed its "resources to investigate" and found nothing amiss, and is closely monitoring the situation together with the National Environment Agency (NEA).

"Our monitoring teams have not detected the presence of Toxic Industrial Chemicals in the air," the SCDF said in a Facebook post at around 10pm.

In a seperate Facebook post at about 10.35pm, the NEA said it deployed its officers to the reported areas to investigate. Air quality levels during the period were found to be well within safety limits.

"Since about 3pm today, winds were light and there was some convergence of winds over the northern half of Singapore, which might have led to an accumulation of smells in the northern area of Singapore," the NEA wrote in its post.

"Winds are expected to turn to blow from the south or southeast later tonight, which will help to disperse any smells in the area. NEA will continue to closely monitor the situation."

Similar complaints have surfaced in the past.

In 2013, there were complaints of a "foul odour" in Punggol and Sengkang. An NEA spokesman then said that the smell could have possibly "emanated from palm oil industries".

NEA however ruled out industries near Punggol as the cause of the smell, after inspections of their equipment, processes, operations and records "did not reveal any abnormalities or issues in their operations" that could be behind the "chemical smell as mentioned in the feedback".


Smoky 'chemical' smell detected in various parts of Singapore
Lydia Lam and Tan Tam Mei Straits Times 25 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE - Some Sengkang residents have complained of a strong acrid smell and smoke that permeated several areas in Singapore on Monday (Sept 25).

Several readers wrote in to The Straits Times from as early as 4pm on Monday afternoon to say they smelled a "burning", "chemical", or "petrol" smell.

Readers from various areas including Sengkang, Seletar, Yishun, and in other areas like Ang Mo Kio and Bishan, also wrote in to ask about the smell, which one described as "choking".

The National Environment Agency said in a statement on its Facebook page at 10.34pm that they received feedback from the public about a gas smell in Sengkang and Punggol around 5pm.

"NEA officers were deployed to those areas immediately to investigate the smell feedback," it said. "Air quality levels during the period were found to be well within safety limits."

NEA added that winds converged over the northern half of Singapore from about 3pm, which may have led to smells accumulating in the northern area of Singapore.

"Winds are expected to turn to blow from the south or southeast later tonight, which will help to disperse any smells in the area," said NEA.

It added that it will continue to monitor the situation closely.

The Straits Times understands that the fumes are believed to be from Johor.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said in a Facebook post at 7.42pm that it has been receiving calls on the smell of gas or burning in the north-eastern part of Singapore.

"SCDF deployed its resources to investigate. There has been no confirmed incident," it said, adding that it was closely monitoring the situation along with NEA.

It added at 9.55pm that its monitoring teams have not detected the presence of toxic industrial chemicals in the air.

About 20 calls had been made to the Singapore Civil Defence Force since late afternoon, ST understands.

Ms Tina Lim, 49, who works in a bank, said there was a "very strong burnt smell" in the air when she reached her home in Sengkang at about 5.30pm. "It didn't smell like haze. It's like something is burning."

The smell could be detected even in Ang Mo Kio. Ms Vivian Tan, a 35-year-old administration executive, told ST that she smelled a "weird smell" like diesel at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 since 6.40pm.

Ms Lelavathi Annamali, who lives in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8, told ST that she started smelling "a very strong kerosene smell" around 6pm.

She went out and returned home at about 7.10pm and the inside of her home was very smoky, she said.

The smoke stung her eyes and affected her throat.

"The smell is very bad inside the house and is affecting the clothes too," said the 68-year-old retiree.

Bishan resident Jacky Kung told ST that he started smelling a petrol-like smell around 4pm.

"The smell was like petrol-like, quite pungent. I could feel my throat drying out and it felt a bit uncomfortable and choking," he said.

He went outside to see what had happened when the smell got stronger, and it seemed "a bit hazy", he said.

"I was wondering if it's a local thing that affected only my neighbourhood, but I went up to the highest floor of my block and it looked like it expanded across the horizon," he said.

The 18-year-old student said the smell had died down somewhat at about 8pm and was most intense between 4pm and 5pm.

He closed all the windows and that helped, he said.

Mr Osman Ahmad, a 59-year-old security guard at Seletar Country Club, told ST he noticed the smell of burning chemicals when he left his home at Pasir Panjang around 2pm.

When he stopped to transfer buses at Seletar he noticed the stench was even stronger and that people at the bus stop were covering their mouths and noses with tissue and handkerchiefs.

"You could see a layer of smoke on the highway. It looked like a morning fog, which was beautiful but very smelly," he said.

He added that the smoke disappeared around 7.30pm and it was the first time in his three years at the job that the smell had been so bad.

"Usually it smells like the normal haze, but today you could tell that it was a chemical smell."

Others likened the smell to burning plastic bags.

The smell appeared to have spread to other parts of Singapore later on Monday night, with readers saying they picked it up in Toa Payoh and even Clementi.

NEA posted an update on the haze situation on its Facebook page at 6.38pm.

It said that the 1-hr PM2.5 concentration readings are expected to stay in Band I (Normal) for the next 24 hours, and the 24-hour PSI is forecast to be in the moderate range.

Several people left comments on the post asking about the burning smell, with some asking if it is toxic.

NEA later shared SCDF's post about monitoring the situation.

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