09/25/2015, 00.00
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Singapore closes schools, distributes masks in wildfire emergency and blames Jakarta

The authorities of the city-state have ordered the closure of kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. It has began distributing masks to the entire population. The pollutant levels above 300, a figure considered to be "dangerous" for the health of citizens. Jakarta and Singapore at loggerheads over the emergency.

Singapore (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Singapore authorities have closed schools in the city for the second time and ordered the distribution of masks to the population, in extraordinary measures to deal with the pollution emergency caused by fires in neighboring Indonesia. The government also called "shocking" the statements of the leaders in Jakarta, whose response to the problem is considered "too little too late".

For three weeks, the city-state  has been shrouded by a blanket of smog and haze from nearby Indonesian island of Sumatra, the epicenter of the fires. Since 201, coinciding with the dry season the phenomena has cyclically reoccurred, but this year, have assumed proportions never before recorded.

The Singapore Straits Times newspaper reported that the closure of all primary and secondary schools, in addition to state nurseries, is "unprecedented" with a level of pollutants above 300 and described as "dangerous". The irritation of citizens and authorities is growing hand in hand with the smog.

Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam points the finger at government officials and local administrators in Indonesia, who have so far shown "total indifference" towards a dramatic problem that affects people of Singapore and Indonesia, as well as Malaysia.

He does not mention names in particular, but the reference to the Vice-President Kalla Jusf who, last March, said that "neighboring countries" should "thank" Indonesia for good air quality "for the most of the year", is clear.

For weeks, a thick blanket of smoke, given off by arson or provoked by farmers clearing fields, has covered the entire archipelago, causing serious damage to the health of citizens. In recent days in Malaysia, authorities ordered the temporary closure of schools in Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas.

Environmentalists and activists point the finger at companies active in the production of palm oil, in particular the illegal growers as being behind the fires.  It is not the first time that a similar emergency has affected the country. Last year, according to data from the Department of Health of Pkanbaru, 30 thousand people suffered from severe respiratory problems due to smoke from wildfires.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has deployed army and police, promising exemplary punishment of those responsible. In recent days the police have opened an investigation and have already made some arrests of those allegedly responsible (along with authors and beneficiaries) of the fires.

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