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Singapore Haze: Air Pollution Reaches Hazardous Levels

Travelers Today       By    Katie McFadden

Updated: Jun 20, 2013 10:06 AM EDT

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Singapore is covered with haze and some are calling it the worst ever as air pollution fills the sky, forcing people to stay indoors. Forest fires in nearby Indonesia have made matters worse and several public areas have been forced to close.

According to the Pollutant Standards Index, Singapore's air pollution measurement, the level reached an unprecedented 371 and reached a "hazardous" classification that can make breathing difficulties even worse. The level has never been so high and the previous record was only at 226 back in 1997, the Associated Press reports.

The new record did ease up a bit in the evening as it dropped to 253 but even these levels are dangerous.

The air pollution levels seem to be caused by raging fires in nearby Indonesia. The fumes have hit both Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore is asking Jakarta to do more to put an end to the fires on Sumatra Island, which farmers started to clear their land cheaply.

"This is now the worst haze that Singapore has ever faced," Singapore's Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan wrote on Facebook. "No country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans' health and wellbeing."

The smog has taken over the city's skyscrapers and is causing problems for locals. They have been advised to stay indoors, but those that can't have complained of coughing and have had to cover their faces.

Travel is also being impacted. Flight controllers at Singapore's Changi Airport have been warned to take precautions since visibility is low.

Other businesses are also being impacted. McDonald's has halted deliveries to protect the health of its workers. Hospitals were forced to shut the windows to keep the smell of the haze out of the building and several football and sailing competitions were cancelled by sports officials.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has tried to reassure residents, saying "we will get through this together." He said that the haze is expected to last for several days due to the wind and weather conditions. He also said that a government panel was being formed to protect public health and economic resilience.

Air quality was not as affected in Malaysia, but Kuala Lumpur, which borders Singapore in the South, also record hazardous pollution levels in some parts, forcing 200 schools to close.

Indonesia defended their response. The government claims that it is teaching farmers about other ways to clear their land and some officials even blame it on Singapore and Malaysia themselves saying that some of their companies are involved in Indonesia's plantation industry.

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