Forest and peatland fires burning in Indonesia since August have caused a major air pollution problem for Singapore as smog closes schools, CNN reported. Although the fires happen every year, the smoke has intensified over the past week due to changing winds, prompting Singapore’s prime minister to issue a warning via social media.
“The air quality worsened into the ‘very unhealthy’ range today. This is why we are closing all primary and secondary schools.”
Although there is currently no plan to officially close down work in Singapore due to the smog, the prime minister also urged employers to protect the “health and safety of their employees,” especially those who work outdoors.
Since not all schools in Singapore are outfitted with air conditioning, they remained closed Friday due to smog as the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading ranged between 264 and 321. To put that in perspective, any reading over 300 is considered “hazardous” and readings that are in the 201-300 range are considered “very unhealthy,” according to Singapore’s National Environment Agency.
According to CNBC, the forest fires behind the smog in Singapore result from harmful “slash-and-burn agriculture” methods used on the Sumatra and Kalimantan islands of Indonesia, where PSI readings have neared 2,000. In Singapore, residents are combating the smog pollution by wearing thick surgical masks and staying indoors as much as possible.
“The effects of the haze are worst for those with breathing-related issues.”
In addition to schools closing, the smog has caused fast food restaurants KFC and McDonalds to suspend their delivery services in an attempt to protect workers. Also, the Singapore Sports Hub announced that all outdoor activities would be suspended, and the Ministry of Health, along with the National Environment Agency, have issued health advisories urging residents to stay indoors.
Still, some residents are trying to see a lighter side to the smog and school closings, with local celebrity mrbrown taking to Twitter and starting the hashtag #sghazesongs. Suggestions have included “Every Breath You Take,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
In an effort to combat the root causes behind the smog, Indonesia is currently investigating approximately 100 companies, tracing their connections to the forest fires and ordering four of them to suspend operations. Although officials say the fires will be extinguished by mid-October, the dry weather resulting from El Nino could mean the fires will be around until November when the monsoon season begins.
[Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah / Stringer / Getty Images]