Forest fire haze clears over Singapore ahead of F1

Thick smog had been hanging over Singapore since last weekend, pushing air quality to unhealthy levels, obscuring the waterfront skyline and sparking fears that Sunday's showpiece F1 night race may be knocked off track.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany steers his car during the first practice session at the Marina Bay City Circuit ahead of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix on Friday.   -  AP

Singapore skies cleared on Friday and air quality improved as smog from raging Indonesian forest fires drifted away, easing fears that this weekend's Formula One race may be affected.

The blazes have been spewing toxic haze across Southeast Asia, forcing the closure of schools and airports, and prompting Jakarta to deploy thousands of personnel to tackle them.

The Indonesian fires are an annual problem during the dry season when farmers use illegal slash-and-burn techniques to clear land for agriculture, but this year's are the worst since 2015.

Thick smog had been hanging over Singapore since last weekend, pushing air quality to unhealthy levels, obscuring the waterfront skyline and sparking fears that Sunday's showpiece F1 night race may be knocked off track.

But on Friday the skies were largely clear, with only a light haze over the city, while air quality improved to a “moderate” level of around 65 on the National Environment Agency's scale.

A reading between 101 and 200 indicates unhealthy air quality.

The wind direction could however still change ahead of the weekend and push smog back over Singapore.

F1 organisers say they have a contingency plan if the haze worsens and have been stocking up on face masks to protect against pollution which spectators can buy at the circuit.

Indonesia, and its neighbours Malaysia and Singapore, have been worst affected by smog but it is starting to spread over a wider area in Southeast Asia.

Haze was detected Friday in central and southern parts of the Philippines, prompting health officials to warn people in affected areas to keep outdoor activities to a minimum and wear masks.

The blazes are centred on Indonesia's Sumatra island and the Indonesian part of Borneo island. Borneo is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Thousands of schools have been forced to close in Malaysia and Indonesia amid mounting health concerns, while several airports have shut due to poor visibility.

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