Thailand: Phuket haze alert no cause for alarm, says disaster chief

Tanyaluk Sakoot The Phuket News 8 Sep 17;

PHUKET: A haze alert issued by the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Phuket Office (DDPM-Phuket ) today is no cause for alarm, DDPM-Phuket Chief Prapan Kanprasang has confirmed to The Phuket News.

Standard procedures have been in place since heavy haze from mass burn-offs on Sumatra, southwest of Phuket, in October 2015 blanketed Phuket with what officials confirmed was Phuket’s “worst haze ever”.

Flights were redirected and hospitals issued free masks as people were admitted for breathing difficulties.

“The alert was posted under an order issued by the Ministry of interior,” DDPM-Phuket Chief Prapan explained to The Phuket News.

“We knew this alert was coming. It only calls for DDPM officers to be prepared in case heavy haze affects areas across Southern Thailand,” he said.

The alert, issued and signed by Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, is dated Sept 4 and orders DDPM officials across Southern Thailand to be on alert for heavy haze.

The order specifically identifies the Andaman provinces of Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi, Rarong, Trang and Satun as areas where officers are to be ready for heavy haze.

It also calls for officers in the southern provinces of Surat Thani, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Phatthalung, Songkhla, Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala to be on alert.

The order was issued following the national DDPM headquarters in Bangkok receiving a report confirming that 200 fire spots on Sumatra and on Borneo were ablaze and the ensuing smoke was causing haze.

Countries already affected by haze were Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore, said the report.

Disaster officials in Thailand were already on alert throughout August and were ordered to remain on alert throughout September, noted the Ministry of Interior order.

Specifically, the order called for DDPM officials to respond to heavy haze by performing the following:

Inform people about haze situation in their areas and advise them on how to protect themselves from smoke inhalation.
Encourage people to not contribute to the problem by not burning off garbage at their homes and to encourage people to recycle their waste.

Contact the provincial public health offices and local administration offices to hand out masks to people.

Identify locations for temporary shelters where people susceptible to the effects of smoke inhalation will not be exposed to heavy haze. Arrange for local water truck services with high-pressure hoses to be able to be deployed to areas to reduce haze by spraying water.

Follow the standard situation management plan. If the situation becomes more severe, contact DDPM superior officers in Bangkok.

“Of course we will follow the actions as ordered in the alert,” Mr Prapan told The Phuket News.

“Being prepared is the only way to mitigate consequences in such situations,” he added.

Phuket haze worst ever: official
Saroj Kueprasertkij The Phuket News 7 Oct 17;

PHUKET: The air quality in Phuket today was the worst on record, the Regional Environmental Office 15 confirmed to The Phuket News this afternoon (Oct 7).

The day began with a hazy sunrise, with the PM10 reading, which records the level of particle dust and smoke in the air, rising to 170 at 8am. A good clear day would offer a reading of somewhere between zero and 50.

“But the afternoon was the worst. At 3pm, Phuket recorded a PM10 reading of 200,” said Dr Pornsri Suthanaruk, Director of Regional Environmental Office 15.

By sunset today, the Thai Pollution Control Department (PCD) officially reported an all-day PM10 high of 214 – so far, a new record.

However, the clouded skies and the PM10 readings was no real cause for alarm, Dr Pornsri stressed.

Despite, the elevated PM10 readings, Phuket today scored an Air-Quality Index (AQI) of only 141, which the PCD does not consider hazardous.

According to the PCD, any AQIs from 101-200 qualifies air quality only as “Affected”. For this category, the PCD notes: “People with breathing problems are to stay indoors. Young and elderly persons must not engage in strenuous physical activity outdoors. Any exercise should be done indoors.”

Regardless, the Phuket Provincial Health Office is continuing to hand out free basic face masks to children, the elderly and people with breathing conditions, such as asthma.

PPHO Deputy Director Dr Krit Sakulpat today re-confirmed that no patients had been admitted to any hospitals in Phuket for serious ailments brought on by the haze.

“We have asked all hospitals in Phuket to report the number of patients with respiratory problems to our office. So far, we have not received any reports, but we will keep a close eye on it as it might take up to three days for people to become seriously affected,” he said.

Meanwhile, the end-of-term break for all Thai curriculum schools has spared many educators the decision of what to do with hordes of children wanting to play outside.

“Only a few [Thai] schools are open for their summer courses or unfinished exams, but they are still not allowing students to spend extended periods outside the buildings or to play,” explained Somporn Chua-sakul Director of Phuket Educational Strategy Office.

“The director of every school has the right to close their own school if they believe the closure is necessary,” he added. “And to close a school for more than seven days requires permission from us.

Phuket haze health readings spiral, hospitals issue free masks

Tanyaluk Sakoot The Phuket News 6 Oct 17;

PHUKET: The Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO) has maintained its health warning from the Indonesian fire haze that has blanketed Phuket, but has confirmed that so far it has not received any reports of people being admitted to hospital for breathing difficulties.

The news follows the PPHO issuing an advisory on Sunday (Oct 4) urging children, the elderly and any persons with breathing difficulties to stay indoors. (See story here.)

The health warning was reiterated on Monday when air-quality readings reached critical levels (see story here) and today (see story here).

“We receive updates from the Pollution Control Department (PCD), Phuket Office, every day,” PPHO Director Dr Bancha Kakong told The Phuket News today (Oct 6).

“So far the PCD has reported that the levels of sulfur oxide in the haze from the fires has yet to reach dangerous levels here. We have not received any reports of people admitted to hospital for respiratory problems, and the situation is not serious enough to ask schools to close.”

In the meantime, however, government hospitals are handing out free face masks.

“As a precaution, children, the elderly and people with respiratory conditions can receive free Nexcare masks,” Dr Bancha said.

“Other people should not need masks, but we still urge all people to stay indoors and especially not to exercise outdoors at this time.

“If the situation changes, we will inform the public as soon as possible,” he said.

However, as of 6pm on Tuesday, after The Phuket News spoke with Dr Bancha, the Division of Air Quality Data, under the PCD’s Air Quality and Noise Management Bureau ( reported that Phuket air-quality had deteriorated.

After recording a PM10 reading of 140 in the early hours of Tuesday, the air had cleared to safe reading 80 by early afternoon.

By nightfall, however, the haze blanketed the island and sent the PM10 spiralling back up to a categorically “Unhealthy” reading of 107. (See here.)

The “Unhealthy” range is described as “Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”