Sunday 15 June 2014

Daily haze updates to start on Monday

El Nino brings higher risk of fires; more hot spots found in Sumatra
By Feng Zengkun, The Straits Times, 14 Jun 2014

DAILY haze forecasts and health advisories will be issued from Monday as the start of the south-west monsoon season brings the possibility of smoke-filled skies.

The traditional dry season for the southern Asean region is likely to be worsened by the El Nino weather phenomenon this year - leading to a higher fire and haze risk - so the National Environment Agency will provide updates through its Twitter and Facebook pages, website and microsite

The agency said yesterday that certain areas of the region have experienced drier weather over the past few days, with isolated hot spots visible in parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia. Earlier this week, Indonesian national news agency Antara said satellites had detected 227 hot spots across Sumatra on Sunday, the highest number in three months.

The south-west monsoon is expected to strengthen and persist in the coming weeks, and the winds could bring with them smoke from Indonesia - caused when farmers burn land illegally to clear it for agricultural use.

The months of June to September are traditionally drier for countries across the southern Asean region, comprising Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and the southern parts of the Philippines and Thailand.

But they could be drier than usual this year, with some scientists now warning that there is a 90 per cent chance of the El Nino weather phenomenon - linked to drier weather - occurring before the end of the year.

One silver lining is that the European Centre for Medium- range Weather Forecasts - considered one of the world's most reliable prediction centres - said this week that the effect of the El Nino is likely to be moderate. It added that the situation will be clearer "in the next month or two".

Meteorological Service Singapore has predicted a "weak to moderate" El Nino, with rainfall here from June to September expected to be 10 per cent to 40 per cent lower than the long-term averages.

Average daily temperatures for those months are expected to be 1 deg C higher than the long-term averages of 27.2 deg C to 27.7 deg C.

People in Singapore have already felt the heat, with the highest recorded temperatures from Monday to Wednesday ranging from 35 deg C to 36.2 deg C.

On Wednesday, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Agung Laksono called on Singapore's Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan. He stressed Indonesia's commitment to resolve the recurrent problem and welcomed Singapore's offers of assistance.

The Republic has offered to provide, among other things, high-resolution satellite images and hot spot coordinates, Singapore Civil Defence Force teams, and even an aircraft for cloud-seeding.Dr Balakrishnan said on Facebook that it was "a very good meeting", adding: "We agreed both governments need to work closely to safeguard the health and welfare of citizens from both Indonesia and Singapore."

Haze alert: Vulnerable families get care packs
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Sunday Times, 15 Jun 2014

With the haze poised to hit the island in the coming weeks, the People's Association (PA) yesterday started distributing 26,000 care packages to elderly and sickly residents living alone.

These packs contain non-perishable foods and items such as N95 masks, and are meant to help vulnerable residents tide over the impending spate of hazy days.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Intan Azura Mokhtar, who are both advisers to Ang Mo Kio grassroots organisations, launched the WeCare Packs initiative at the annual Jalan Kayu Day yesterday.

About 200 of these packs will go out to the area's residents within the next four weeks.

Overall, more than 5,000 Community Emergency Response Team members and grassroots volunteers will distribute the packs to about 26,000 households islandwide in the next four weeks.

This is the first time the PA is carrying out such an initiative in anticipation of the haze.

"I believe our intention is to make sure our residents are ready, even before an emergency happens," said Dr Intan in Malay, at the community event.

"Last year, we saw how haze brought adverse consequences. This year, we plan to make sure we lend our residents help early."

Last Friday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) sounded a warning about the south-west monsoon, which is expected to strengthen in the coming weeks.

Strong winds could carry smoke haze from fires in Indonesia over to Singapore.

The NEA will issue a daily haze forecast starting tomorrow.

Singapore offers anti-haze help to Malaysia and Indonesia
By Feng Zengkun, The Straits Times, 10 Jun 2014

Singapore has offered help to Malaysia and Indonesia to combat any land and forest fires in the run-up to the traditional dry season, to prevent another severe haze episode from affecting the region.

The Singapore Government has offered Indonesia Singapore Civil Defence Force teams to help fight fires and to provide anti-fire planning assistance, aircraft to transport the fire-fighting teams and to carry out cloud-seeding operations to create rain artificially, and satellite pictures and hotspot coordinates.

This is the same assistance package offered to Indonesia in previous years.

The Singapore Government has also pledged to help Malaysia fight fires if the need arises.

Illegal use of fire in Indonesia to clear land for agriculture has been the main cause of haze in the region.

Last year, Singapore had its worst episode of haze, with the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index hitting an unprecedented 246 on June 20.

In March this year, Singapore was also affected by haze from Malaysia.

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