Published On: Thu, Sep 24th, 2015

Singapore forced to shut down schools after air quality reaches hazardous levels

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Singapore will close all primary and secondary schools on Friday as worsening pollution causes air quality to deteriorate, the Ministry of Education said late on Thursday. Slash-and-burn agriculture in neighboring Indonesia has blanketed Singapore in a choking haze for weeks, and the air quality has worsened since Wednesday night.

The three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading climbed to 314 and the 24-hour figure rose to 223-275 at 10 p.m. local time (1400 GMT). Anything over 300 indicates “hazardous” air quality and 201-300 is “very unhealthy”, Singapore’s National Environment Agency said on its website.

Thick grey smoke blown in by southerly winds smothered the island, shrouding the skyline and creeping into homes, with many residents avoiding going outdoors. Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin in a Facebook post late Thursday called for calm. “At all times refer only to official channels for information and do not circulate speculations,” he wrote. The city-state, which prides itself for its clean environment, has been cloaked in the haze in varying degrees for about three weeks, the worst such episode since mid-2013. But Southeast Asia’s most damaging cross-border bout with haze was in 1997-1998 when the smog caused an estimated USD 9 billion in losses in economic activity across the region.

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