News / Asia

Indonesia Deploys Aircraft to Fight Fires as Haze Spreads

Singapore PM: Haze from Indonesia Could Blanket City for Weeksi
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June 20, 2013 11:24 PM
Singapore's prime minister says record high air pollution caused by forest fires in neighboring Indonesia may continue to smother the city-state for weeks or months. VOA's Michael Lipin reports on how Singaporeans are coping with the haze that began afflicting the city on Monday, and how the Singaporean and Indonesian governments are responding to the problem.
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Indonesia is deploying helicopters to help battle raging fires that have choked Singapore with a record-setting thick haze of smoke for a third consecutive day.

Along with water-bombing the out-of-control fires, aircraft will also be used in the coming days to seed clouds in a desperate attempt to create rain to douse the flames.

Singapore's air pollution standards index soared to another record high Friday afternoon, reaching a level that can severely harm people with respiratory problems. Parts of nearby Malaysia have also suffered from the extreme air pollution.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Thursday the haze that began afflicting the city-state Monday could persist until the end of the dry season on Indonesia's Sumatra Island in September or October.

Singapore's National Environment Agency chief Andrew Tan has called on Indonesia to take "decisive action" against companies suspected of burning forests on Sumatra as a cheap way of clearing land.

However, Indonesian Minister for People's Welfare Agung Laksono criticized Singapore's reaction to the haze, accusing the city-state of acting like a "child."

Some residents wore face masks as they walked to and from work, but many stores sold out of the items, leaving other people to cover their mouths with handkerchiefs or tissues.

The smell of burned wood was so strong that it even permeated the city's underground train system. Many Singaporeans chose to stay at home and use social media to air their complaints about Indonesia's role in the smog.

Indonesia has defended its response, saying it is investigating companies suspected of setting the fires and trying to educate plantation owners about alternatives to traditional burning methods.
  • A family rides on a motorcycle as the haze hits Kubu district in Rokan Hilir, Indonesia, June 25, 2013.
  • A resident tries to extinguish a fire burning on peatland in Pekanbaru of Riau province June 24, 2013.
  • Villagers sit on their motorcycles as they get ready to leave their homes as a fire burns a palm oil plantation in Bangko Pusako district, Indonesia, June 22, 2013.
  • Villagers ride a motorcycle in haze in Dumai, Indonesia, June 21, 2013.
  • Volunteers prepare new face masks to give to residents in Dumai, Indonesia, June 21, 2013.
  • The Singapore Central Business District skyline covered with a thick haze, June 21, 2013.
  • A street vendor is seen wearing a face mask in Dumai, Indonesia, June 21, 2013.
  • Office workers walk through a haze blanketing the Singapore Central Business District, June 20, 2013.

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