Asia Minute: Haze Clouds Spreading Further in Southeast Asia

Oct 22, 2015

Credit eric molina / Flickr

Hurricane Olaf continues to weaken today - and its track remains well away from Hawai‘i.  The storm is sending a large swell to the islands, but is not expected to have an impact on our skies. Meanwhile, the skies over Southeast Asia continue to be affected by a growing manmade problem. HPR’s Bill Dorman has an update in today’s Asia Minute.

The mass of haze in Southeast Asia is on the move.  For more than two months, illegal fires in Indonesia have been belching air pollution.  And now their reach has stretched well beyond the neighboring countries of Singapore and Malaysia.

Southern Thailand has been hit by the worst haze it has seen since records have been kept.  On the regional pollution index, any reading between 201 and 300 is “very unhealthy” while a reading above 300 is “hazardous.”  On Thursday, parts of southern Thailand hit a record 365 - forcing schools to close and flights to be cancelled.

The Associated Press quotes a government official who calls it “a crisis.”  According to the Philippine Star, flights have also been cancelled on the Philippine island of Mindanao.  Singapore’s Straits Times reports that smoke emissions from the fires have now reached their worst level in nearly twenty years.  Complicating the current fire situation is the El Nino weather pattern - which has delayed the seasonal rains that usually douse the fires and ease the haze around this time of the year.