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Dangerous Smog, Haze Smothers Singapore

The skyline of Singapore, a wealthy city-state and business nexus in southeast Asia, was less than majestic Thursday as smoke and haze clogged the air and made even breathing a challenge.

According to the Singapore National Environment Agency, Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings in the city hit an all-time high of 371 at 1 p.m. (1:00 a.m. EDT). Readings this high are well above what are considered healthy, soaring into the hazardous category for the entire population.

Thick smog and haze also caused Singapore's Changi Airport to put strict safety measures into operation. Some departure and arrival delays resulted as planes were forced to increase the time between takeoffs and landings, a spokesperson for the airport said.

The last time pollution levels in Singapore reached levels this high was in 1997, when fires burning on the Indonesian island of Sumatra fed a dangerous mix of smoke and haze that drifted eastward into Singapore. Still, according to Reuters, PSI values only made it to 226 then. Values from Thursday were a full 145 points higher.

With wet season Southwest Monsoon conditions underway across much of India into Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, drier weather has begun across much of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

This is typically a dry time of the year, and occasional extended periods of drier weather can be expected in the upcoming months.

Much like 1997, the thick smog from large fires in Sumatra has been carried by prevailing winds blowing from the southwest, and has been affecting Singapore and surrounding areas since June 13. The dangerously hazy conditions are expected to persist for at least the next few days as bone-dry weather lingers.