Hazy skies force Singaporeans to cancel outdoor activities

Some race organisers turn runs into walks or call off weekend events as air quality worsens

SINGAPORE - The haze yesterday (Sept 13) kept Singaporeans away from their regular weekend outdoor activities such as cycling and running, and prompted organisers of several races to turn their competitive runs into walks or call off their events altogether.

Organisers of Formula One's Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, to be held from Friday (Sept 18) to Sunday (Sept 20), stressed yesterday that they are prepared to handle a haze situation.

Said a spokesman for Singapore GP: "In the event that the haze causes visibility, public health or operational issues, Singapore GP would work closely with the relevant agencies before making any collective decisions regarding the event."

Prevailing winds continued to blow in haze from Sumatra, Indonesia, yesterday, causing the air quality here to deteriorate. At 7am, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) stood in the unhealthy range of 112-132. The three-hour PSI, an indicative reading not tied to health advisory, hit 165 at 8am.

On Saturday night, the Singapore Cancer Society said it was cancelling its race scheduled for yesterday. POSB also cancelled the races and family walk for its PAssion Run for Kids event, but a carnival went on as planned at Marina Bay Promontory.

The Singapore Flyer obscured by haze, as seen from Gardens by the Bay yesterday morning. Prevailing winds continued to blow in haze from Sumatra yesterday, causing the air quality here to deteriorate.
The Singapore Flyer obscured by haze, as seen from Gardens by the Bay yesterday morning. Prevailing winds continued to blow in haze from Sumatra yesterday, causing the air quality here to deteriorate. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Organisers of other events - the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run and the Safra Celebration Run and Ride - turned their runs into walks, to prevent participants from engaging in strenuous physical exertion.

The haze prompted personal trainer Poon Pek Ya, 46, to can her triathlon classes for children and seniors or move them indoors. Engineer Adrian Ho, 28, who trains with a group of cyclists, skipped training yesterday. "Hopefully, the haze will go away soon," he said.

Business at alfresco eateries and bars was also hit, with some observing a slight dip in patron numbers over the weekend.

The National Environment Agency said yesterday that hazy conditions are expected to persist today. Air quality could deteriorate as the unfavourable winds may blow in denser haze from Sumatra.

Thundery showers forecast for Singapore may bring only a short respite. The 24-hour PSI at 10pm yesterday stood at 130-152.

"The number of hot spots is still high, indicating that the acts of burning forest and land have continued, even within the national parks," said Mr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's national disaster management agency BNPB.

Colonel Tri Winarno told reporters that soldiers deployed to South Sumatra to help control the fire last week are struggling to find adequate water sources and to deal with fire burning underneath the peatland.

Given the air quality forecast in Singapore, healthy people should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, especially the elderly, pregnant women and children. Updates are available at www.haze.gov.sg

• Additional reporting by Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja and Jeremy Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2015, with the headline 'Hazy skies force S'poreans to cancel outdoor activities'. Print Edition | Subscribe