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06/24/2013

Smog takes toll on Singapore economy

Singapore

A car drives past fire from burning trees planted for palm oil, during haze at Bangko Pusako district in Rokan Hilir, on Indonesia's Riau province on June 24. (Reuters photo)

The haze of smog over Singapore is starting to fade.

As Indonesian airplanes water-bombed raging forest fires, reports from the island country suggested that the smog was not as bad as it was on Friday when CNN said it was the worst the country had faced.

But business and tourism is still taking a hit.

According to a report in Wall Street Journal, work has continued on construction sites and in offices and financial markets but several fast-food chains, including McDonald`s and Pizza Hut, are not making deliveries to protect their staff from the smog.

Some other offices have handed out face masks and even installed air purifiers, and the government has asked companies to minimize employees' work outside.

Resorts World Sentosa announced the closure of several outdoor attractions while Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which runs the famed Singapore Zoo, said there was a decline in visitors.

Some hotels saw early departures of guests and there were some cancellations.

Bloomberg said there could be a decrease in visitors if the situation does not improve soon.

Palm oil companies are suspected of starting widespread forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia to clear land for plantations. The fires caused record levels of hazardous smog in Singapore last week.

The Strait Times said that pharmacies sold out respiratory masks within hours.

Reuters U.K. reported on Friday that the destructive blazes in Indonesia had been “deliberately set." Indonesian officials said that eight companies were responsible for the fires and the smog, according to Reuters. Incidentally, Indonesian officials blamed Singaporean palm oil companies for the fires. 

Meanwhile, the smog drifted over to Malaysia, said Wall Street Journal, where emergency was declared in two southern parts of the country.  

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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