Published: Friday 31 March 2000

-- A government agency in Indonesia has called for a state of emergency to be imposed after smog from forest fires on the island of Sumatra exceeded safe limits. The fires have caused a slight haze in Singapore, while Malaysia remained unaffected.

The fires are set to clear land for agriculture and the situation in 1997 was particularly disastrous.

Head of the Sumatra environmental supervising body Muhammad Alamsyah said: "The pollution levels have become very high in Pekanbaru and around the Caltex oil well. Protection masks should be a 'must-worn' during this period." These high readings, according to Indonesia's Air Pollutant Standard index, are considered 'hazardous'.

Alamsyah said educational institutions were opening late, children were being kept indoors and supplies of essential smoke masks were running out. According to another official the air quality has been unchanged since March 1.

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