Skip to main content

Indonesia apologizes for 'hazardous' pollution levels

By Katie Hunt and Kathy Quiano, CNN
June 25, 2013 -- Updated 0652 GMT (1452 HKT)
Students wear masks as haze shrouds Kuala Lumpur on June 23. Many schools in Malaysia were closed on Monday after air pollution caused by forest fires in Indonesia spiked to hazardous levels. Students wear masks as haze shrouds Kuala Lumpur on June 23. Many schools in Malaysia were closed on Monday after air pollution caused by forest fires in Indonesia spiked to hazardous levels.
Malaysia chokes on smoke
Malaysia chokes on smoke
Malaysia chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
Singapore chokes on smoke
  • NEW: Indonesia's president apologizes to Singapore and Malaysia over smog
  • Malaysia closes schools in many parts of the country because of haze
  • State of emergency declared in two southern areas after pollution index spikes
  • Singapore breathes easier as change in wind direction disperses smog

(CNN) -- Indonesia's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has apologized to Singapore and Malaysia for the hazardous air pollution caused by smoke from forest fires raging in his country.

Jakarta has sent planes, helicopters and an extra 3,000 personnel to fight the fires, which have been blamed on the clearing of land for palm oil plantations

"For this incident, I, as President of Indonesia, would like to apologize to Singapore and Malaysia and ask for their understanding. Indonesia did not want this to happen and we are trying to address this problem responsibly," he told a news conference on Monday evening.

Schools in many areas of Malaysia were closed on Monday and a state of emergency was declared in two southern regions after the country's air pollution scale spiked to hazardous levels on Sunday morning, Bernama, Malaysia's state news agency reported.

Haze hangs over Singapore.
iReporter trapped inside because of smog

The country's air pollution scale exceeded 700 in two areas of Johor state. According to the index, a reading above 300 is considered hazardous.

"The schools are ordered to be closed as a precautionary measure since the bad air quality will affect the health of students," Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said.

Classes were back to normal for most schools on Tuesday as the air quality improved.

Shifting winds also allowed Singapore, which has been enveloped in smog for most of last week, to breathe easier.

The city's air pollution index stood at 52 at 11 a.m. local time on Monday, falling after the wind direction changed to southerly from southwesterly on Sunday.

Last week, the index hit its highest levels since 1997, with a reading of 371. The city's National Environment Agency said air quality becomes "very unhealthy" when the index passes 200.

READ: Singapore chokes on haze

Fires have raged in several spots on the island of Sumatra for more than a week, spreading acrid smoke to Singapore and Malaysia.

Authorities have been using three helicopters to "water bomb" the flames and in the past four days 7,000 liters of water have been dumped on the areas hit by the fires. A Cassa aircraft is also being used to seed clouds in attempt to create rain.

On Tuesday, Jakarta sent 3,000 firefighters, military and police personnel to reinforce the 2,000 already working to extinguish the fires in Sumatra, where 265 locations have been identified as hotspots.

"I have given instructions to mobilize the power we have, the resources we have including funding. There should be no obstacles in disbursing these funds," President Yudhoyono said.

According to the US-based World Resources Institute, most of the fires are on land owned or managed by timber companies and palm oil plantation owners.

Last week, it released a list of 17 timber companies and 15 palm oil plantation operators, including two headquartered in Singapore.

The chief of Indonesia's National Disaster Agency, Syamsul Maarif has said that the government is investigating which companies operating in Sumatra may have caused the fires.

Singapore said it would take legal action against local companies found to be involved and pressed Indonesia to provide evidence, the New Straits Times reported.

"We will offer no succor or refuge if the action of the companies have indeed been illegal in Indonesia and impacted on Singapore," Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said.

The minister added that he would raise the issue at the upcoming meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Authorities in Singapore are anxious to avoid a repeat of the 1997 Southeast Asian haze, which the government estimates cost $9 billion in health care costs and disrupted air travel and business.

Journalist Katie Hunt wrote and reported from Hong Kong, CNN's Kathy Quiano reported from Jakarta

Part of complete coverage on
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 0626 GMT (1426 HKT)
A year ago, 1,000 garment workers died in the collapse of Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. Here's a look at what has changed since then.
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 0453 GMT (1253 HKT)
Focus is on the fish as U.S. President starts tour with visit to legendary Tokyo restaurant.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Fireworks are fantastic and human endeavor has its place, but sometimes Mother Nature outshines any performance we can produce.
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 0306 GMT (1106 HKT)
In 1987, China sent its very first email. Here's what it said,
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 0213 GMT (1013 HKT)
The world's new fastest elevator will fling you from earth to the 95th floor before you're done reading this article.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
In one U.S. state, a new bill will allow ordinary citizens to carry guns in all sorts of places. Does it make you feel safer?
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1410 GMT (2210 HKT)
In South Korea, volunteer divers are risking their lives to rescue victims of the sunken ferry.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Park Jee Young, 22, helped passengers escape as the Sewol ferry sank -- giving out life jackets while refusing to wear one herself.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1643 GMT (0043 HKT)
What did outgoing manager David Moyes get wrong in his six months with English Premier League football team Manchester United?
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1736 GMT (0136 HKT)
In honor of Shakespeare's birthday, here are 15 of the world's most amazing theaters.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
CNN exclusive: Australian officials are hammering out a new agreement for widening the Flight 370 search area.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Malaysian officials sent to brief Chinese families are armed with little to no information.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1545 GMT (2345 HKT)
When a team of Indian surgeons opened up the stomach of a 63-year-old man, they had no idea they'd extract a fortune.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 0701 GMT (1501 HKT)
Do these photos CNN of gun-toting men wearing green uniforms prove Russian forces are in eastern Ukraine?
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1711 GMT (0111 HKT)
If the Duchess wears it, then your fashion career is sorted for life.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.