Expatriates living and working in Singapore have started to make exit plans as the city’s Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reached a record high of 401 today.
Singapore, a city that is world-renowned for its pristine streets and clean air, has been dealt a blow this week in the form of smog fuelled by raging fires in Indonesia’s Sumatra region. The city’s PSI, the main measure of air pollution, passed the critical 300 mark earlier in the week, breaching the “hazardous” classification that can aggravate respiratory ailments. However, today the pollution levels have surged even further and expats throughout the city fear for the health of themselves and their children as the 400-mark was passed, reaching the “very hazardous” category. According to Wikipedia: “PSI levels above 400 may be life-threatening to ill and elderly persons. Healthy people may experience adverse symptoms that affect normal activity.”
It is believed that the fires in Sumatra have been started by farmers and plantation owners who are attempting to clear their land cheaply. While authorities from Singapore have placed increasing pressure on their neighbors to deal with the fires, officials in Indonesia have hit back, accusing Singapore of behaving “like a child.”
“Singapore should not be behaving like a child and making all this noise,” said Agung Laksono, the minister coordinating Indonesia’s response. “This is not what the Indonesian nation wants, it is because of nature.”
Singapore representatives have reacted angrily, demanding that more action is taken to stop the fires. “This is now the worst haze that Singapore has ever faced,” Singapore’s Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan declared on Facebook. “No country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans’ health and wellbeing.”
Face masks and air purifiers have sold out throughout the city and many expats are attempting to secure flights out of the country to nearby locations that haven’t been impacted by the fires. Many expats living in Singapore have complained of headaches, sore throats and coughs and the population as a whole has been warned that young children and the elderly in particular are at risk of developing serious respiratory problems.
Residents have been advised to remain indoors and to wear face masks if venturing outside.
According to reports, Indonesia is planning on deploying helicopters and cloud seeding equipment to try to tackle the fires. However, it appears that the problem may not subside anytime soon. Earlier in the week Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned that, if the current weather patterns persist, the haze could remain a problem for weeks, or even months.