Haze reaches southern Thailand, rises beyond safety levels

A fishing boat sailing on the Narathiwat river through haze in Narathiwat, southern Thailand, on Oct 5, 2015.
A fishing boat sailing on the Narathiwat river through haze in Narathiwat, southern Thailand, on Oct 5, 2015.PHOTO: AFP
A woman wearing a face mask as she rides a motorcycle with children through haze in Narathiwat, southern Thailand, on Oct 5, 2015.
A woman wearing a face mask as she rides a motorcycle with children through haze in Narathiwat, southern Thailand, on Oct 5, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The haze from forest fires in Indonesia has reached southern Thailand, with smoke from the dust particles rising above safety levels in Songkhla province's Hat Yai district.

Songhkla Governor Songpol Sawasditham on Monday (Oct 5) set up a war room to combat the impact of the haze which reportedly saw high concentrations of tiny dust particles rising to 173 micrograms (mcg) per cubic metre - well above safety levels. The concentration of dust particles was also the highest level seen this year, according to the Bangkok Post.

Other southern provinces that reported high concentration levels of the PM10 dust particles - the dominant pollutant during haze episodes - included, Yala, Pattani and Satun, which had PM10 levels of 141mcg, 119 mcg, and 151mcg respectively.

The haze was also reported in the Narathiwat, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phuket and Surat Thani provinces. While air quality readings in the other southern provinces were within the maximum safety standard of 120mcg, local authorities said they were on alert and monitoring the situation closely.

Thailand's southern provinces are located near Malaysia, which has also been blanketed by thick haze for about a month.

Authorities have called the haze seen in Songkhla province in recent days the decade's worst as previous haze episodes usually faded within four hours, The Nation reported.

The director of Songkhlanagarind Hospital in Hat Yai, Dr Thanarat Boonreung, said it was prepared to educate the public to protect themselves, while also preparing supplies to treat those affected, although it noted that there was no obvious increase in patients with respiratory ailments.

Disease control and prevention officials at Hat Yai Municipality and Mayor Prai Pattano on Monday distributed face masks and provided information to the public on how to take care of their health during the haze period.

Meanwhile, authorities in Pattani have warned local fishermen to take precautions due to the poor visibility at sea as a result of the haze.

There was also visible haze in Satun's seven districts, with some residents saying they could sense a burning smell in the air despite some rainfall. Motorists had to drive cautiously and turn on their headlights because of the poor visibility, The Nation reported.

The haze also visibly covered Narathiwat province throughout Monday.