The day began with a hazy sunrise, with the PM10 reading, which records the level of particle dust and smoke in the air, rising to 170 at 8am. A good clear day would offer a reading of somewhere between zero and 50.
“But the afternoon was the worst. At 3pm, Phuket recorded a PM10 reading of 200,” said Dr Pornsri Suthanaruk, Director of Regional Environmental Office 15.
By sunset today, the Thai Pollution Control Department (PCD) officially reported an all-day PM10 high of 214 – so far, a new record.
However, the clouded skies and the PM10 readings was no real cause for alarm, Dr Pornsri stressed.
Despite, the elevated PM10 readings, Phuket today scored an Air-Quality Index (AQI) of only 141, which the PCD does not consider hazardous.
According to the PCD, any AQIs from 101-200 qualifies air quality only as “Affected”. For this category, the PCD notes: “People with breathing problems are to stay indoors. Young and elderly persons must not engage in strenuous physical activity outdoors. Any exercise should be done indoors.”
Regardless, the Phuket Provincial Health Office is continuing to hand out free basic face masks to children, the elderly and people with breathing conditions, such as asthma.
PPHO Deputy Director Dr Krit Sakulpat today re-confirmed that no patients had been admitted to any hospitals in Phuket for serious ailments brought on by the haze.
“We have asked all hospitals in Phuket to report the number of patients with respiratory problems to our office. So far, we have not received any reports, but we will keep a close eye on it as it might take up to three days for people to become seriously affected,” he said.
Meanwhile, the end-of-term break for all Thai curriculum schools has spared many educators the decision of what to do with hordes of children wanting to play outside.
“Only a few [Thai] schools are open for their summer courses or unfinished exams, but they are still not allowing students to spend extended periods outside the buildings or to play,” explained Somporn Chua-sakul Director of Phuket Educational Strategy Office.
“The director of every school has the right to close their own school if they believe the closure is necessary,” he added. “And to close a school for more than seven days requires permission from us.
“However, we have yet to receive any such requests and we have not received any reports of the haze causing illness among students. But we are following the situation very closely.”
Kajonkiet International School has ordered that no students play outside, confirmed Kirana Koysombat of the school’s public relations department.
“We have cancelled all outdoor activities and keep the students inside the buildings,” she told The Phuket News today.
“The school is also taking this opportunity to teach students about air pollution and the current situation, how it can affect their health and what they can do to minimise their exposure to it,” she said.
“We have notified our students’ parents. Also, although most of our students bring their own face masks to school, we have free masks available if they forget to bring them or lose them,” she added.
British International School Phuket yesterday notified the parents of its students, “Please note that due to the current levels of pollution we have made a decision to cancel all outside extra curricular activities including Academies. We will make a daily decision on this as the wind is set to change shortly.”
Dr Pornsri of the Regional Environmental Office 15 agrees. She said that she expects the haze to lift within the next few days.
However, Halem Jehmarican, Director of the higher-ranking Environmental Office Region 16 in Songkhla, does not concur. His forecast is for more haze.
“The NOAA-18 satellite monitoring forest fires on Sumatra, which lies a few hundred kilometres southwest of Phuket, identified 59 hot spots on Monday (Oct 5) That number rose to 121 hot spots on Tuesday (Oct 6),” Mr Halem said this afternoon.
“So the weather will be like this for a couple more days, because there is no sign of rain and the wind is blowing very slowly.
“In the meantime, we urge people to follow the weather and air quality reports very closely, as the situation could become dangerous for your health, especially for people who have breathing problems,” he said.