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Sumatra forest fire haze returns to blanket Phuket

PHUKET: Health officials have confirmed that the Sumatra forest fire haze blanketing Phuket, although unsightly, has yet to pose a serious health risk.

healthenvironmentweather
By Saroj Kueprasertkij

Friday 4 September 2015, 12:36PM


Traffic trundles along Phuket's bypass road as the thick haze from the Sumatra forest fires hovers overhead. Photo: Saroj Kueprasertkij

Traffic trundles along Phuket's bypass road as the thick haze from the Sumatra forest fires hovers overhead. Photo: Saroj Kueprasertkij

“We are monitoring the air-quality situation very closely with data provided by the Pollution Control Department (PCD),” said Dr Bancha Khakong, Chief of the Phuket Public Health Office (PPHO).

“This morning the weather was still fine,” he told The Phuket News today (Sept 4).

However, Dr Bancha maintained his warning that children and people with breathing conditions should remain indoors.

“The PPHO is keeping an eye on the number of patients admitted to hospital for breathing difficulties caused by the haze and we have ordered all hospitals to make sure they have enough respiratory medicine and masks in stock,” he said.

“We would like to warn people with heart or lung conditions not to stay outside for long periods, but at this level of air quality we do not urge people to use face masks yet.

“We will keep the public updated on the situation and inform you of any changes,” Dr Bandcha added.

Wikrom Dechnu, Acting Director of the regional Ministry of National Resources and Environment (MNRE) head office in Songkhla, confirmed that the air quality in Phuket had become increasingly affected over the past 24 hours, but remained safe to breathe.

“The pollution particulate measure in Phuket registered 30 micrograms per cubic meter yesterday and at 9am this morning it read 58pm10, which is still considered average,” he said.

The air quality further south, however, has been dramatically affected, Mr Wikrom said.

“The worst air quality recorded so far during the current haze was in Satun province. That read 68 pm10,” Mr Wikrom said.

“Songkhla recorded 64pm10 at 9am this morning,” he added.

Surat Thani has so far maintained the best air-quality readings during the current haze, with an air quality reading of only 35pm10, Mr Wikrom noted.

The haze, which returned to Phuket yesterday and is visibly thicker today, is expected to disspipate over the weekend.

Images from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites on Wednesday (Sept 2) showed 395 forest fires burning in Sumatra, Mr Wikrom explained.

“That number fell to 111 yesterday,” he said.

The direction of the wind resulted in the haze spreading across all of Southern Thailand, Mr Wikrom said.

Phuket was blanked by Sumatra forest fire haze only a week ago, when Dr Bancha issued his first health advisory last Thursday (August 27). (See story here).

 

 

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