Singapore air pollution eases as Malaysia declares state of emergency

Singapore breathed a little easier on Sunday, as record air pollution at levels deemed hazardous eased after three consecutive days.

However, Malaysia was forced to declare a state of emergency when smoke haze from illegal burning of forests on Indonesia's Sumatra island reached hazardous levels.

Bloomberg cited a statement by G. Palanivel, minister for natural resources and environment, as saying Prime Minister Najib Razak as saying the Air Pollution Index readings had reached more than 750.

Any level above 300 is considered hazardous.

"There should be no outdoor activities and people must stay indoors until further notice in these areas."

The country had begun cloud seeding to induce rain, while many schools in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and elsewhere were shut down. However, a pocket of clean air appeared over the city state after the winds changed, CNN reported.

Kuala Lumpur's state's main index for air pollution had hit a measurement of 401 at midday Friday, exceeding previous highs of 371 on Thursday and 321 on Wednesday, both of which were record readings.

Those measurements are classified as "hazardous" and can aggravate respiratory ailments.

However, the acrid haze caused by fires appeared less ominous Sunday, and residents were venturing back out to the streets a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged them to remain indoors and dispatched his environment minister to Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, to discuss measures to tackle the forest fires.

Vivian Balakrishnan called on Indonesia earlier this week to take "urgent and definitive action" to combat the pollution, the Associated Press reported.

However, Indonesia has in turn charged Singaporean and Malaysian firms involved in Indonesian plantations over the fires.

One Indonesian Cabinet minister said Singapore "should not act like children, making all that noise."

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