Asia-Pacific News

Haze engulfs Singapore as forest fires rage in Indonesia

Workers install spectators seats for the Formula One street circuit as financial district buildings are shrouded with haze in Singapore on September 14, 2015.
Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

Marveling at Singapore's gleaming skyline of high-rises has become a little harder in recent days.

Instead, the city-state has been covered in a haze more reminiscent of a doomsday movie, triggered by raging forest fires in Indonesia, that has led to a worsening of air quality and raised doubts over the Formula 1 Grand Prix this weekend.

The Pollutant Standards Index, a global gauge of air quality, was between 122 and 150 in Singapore in the past 24 hours, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA). A level between 100 and 200 indicates unhealthy air quality.

"Widespread moderate to dense smoke haze was observed in central and southern Sumatra. The haze has spread to the surrounding sea areas," the agency said.

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The situation, which occurs every year at about the same time, prompted the government to intervene. Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan spoke with Indonesian Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Baka on Monday and offered to help control the fires.

Nurbaya also agreed to Balakrishnan's request for Indonesia to share the names of companies that are suspected to be causing the fires, once Indonesia is able to confirm the information with checks, according to the Singaporean NEA.

Whatever the cause, the haze has captured the attention of the Singaporean population. Many people took pictures of the smog on their smartphones on their way back from office Monday evening, while wearing protective masks.

Singapore's netizens have also chimed in, with #sghaze trending on Twitter.

Will this lead to heaven #sghaze

Instagram has come up with a new filter that is only available in Singapore. It's called haze. #sghaze

200 PSI is the new 400 PSI. #sghaze [Photo by my friend WK]

Things could still worsen. The 24-hour PSI for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the mid to high sections of the unhealthy range, and may enter the low section of the very unhealthy range if denser haze from Sumatra is blown in, the NEA said.

The haze is mild, however, to the cloud that descended on Singapore in June 2013, when the PSI reportedly hit 401.