'Smoky smell' over eastern Singapore not caused by haze or local fires; NEA monitoring air quality

The air around the Tampines area was hazy and there was a strong burning smell when ST reached the area at about 8.30am. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Like some others at the Tampines Central Park on Feb 8, this user opted to don a face mask. A burning smell was present in her area as well as others including Pasir Ris and Bedok. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - A strong burning smell has been reported over several parts of eastern Singapore on Friday morning (Feb 8), including Tampines, Bedok and Pasir Ris.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the National Environment Agency (NEA) confirmed that it received feedback of a smoky smell in the eastern part of Singapore.

Its investigations thus far have not detected any local sources of burning or incidents at factories that could have contributed to the smell, said its spokesman, adding that no sources of transboundary haze were detected in the region.

"We are closely monitoring the air quality and will provide updates of any further findings or significant change to the air quality situation," he said.

Mr Jon Lee, 45, who lives in Tampines, likened the smell to the haze or offerings being burned during the Chinese seventh month.

"I was taking my son to school on the way to work at around 6am, and there was a strong burning smell. At 7am, when I dropped my son off in the East Coast area, it was still there," said Mr Lee, who works in sales.

He told The Straits Times that there was no burning smell when he reached his workplace in the west. He added that his colleague who lives in Bedok also described a similar burning smell.

A reader, who wished to be known only as Ms Tan, said she noticed the smell when she reached the void deck of her Tampines home after 7am.

"The smell was pretty strong, and when I got to the bus stop I could see that it was a bit hazy. Things looked blurry from a distance," said the 24-year-old trainee teacher.

Another reader who did not wish to be named also said she smelled a strong burning smell. She said the smell was similar to the haze.

"I smelled it once I woke up around 7.30am and stepped out of my room. I went to the balcony to see if someone was burning something, but I didn't really see anything," said the 23-year-old who works in public relations.

Netizens posting on online forum Reddit said that Simei, Pasir Ris, Bedok, Tampines and Marine Parade were among the areas affected, with some as early as 3am.

Facebook user Han Han, in a post at about 7.25am, said it smelled like "burnt leaves".

When ST reached the Tampines area at about 8.30am, a strong burning smell was in the air.

The air around the park was visibly hazy, with buildings in the distance appearing unclear and obscured.

Some pedestrians were spotted donning face masks at Tampines Central Park.

Apart from the east, at least one ST reader also said the smell reached the Bukit Timah area in the early morning.

The reader, who only wanted to be known as Mr Jeevan, said he could smell it while jogging from his home at Jalan Jurong Kechil to the Beauty World MRT station.

"I was starting my daily early morning jog at about 4.45am, and the smell was very strong. I thought at first that someone was burning offerings," said the 65-year-old businessman.

He added that the smell seemed to have subsided by about 5.15am.

In its statement, NEA said the one-hour PM2.5 readings in the east from 4am to 5am ranged from 70 to 73 micrograms per cubic m (mcg/m3), in the "elevated" range. PM2.5 is the dominant pollutant during haze episodes.

This dropped to the normal range from 6am to 7am, with readings ranging from 19 to 26 mcg/m3.

But it rose again from 8am to 11am to "elevated", ranging from 46 to 62 mcg/m3. The one-hour PM2.5 readings in other regions of Singapore were in the normal range over the same periods of time.

As at 5pm, the 24-hour PSI was 65, in the moderate range.

As of 7pm, the Singapore Civil Defence Force said it had not received any reports of incidents that may have caused the smell.

Some ST readers in Pasir Ris and Tampines said that the smell had returned around 10pm on Friday.

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