Surviving Four Days of Indonesia Smoke

We noticed the haze was building on the afternoon after we hauled Tahina back in the water. The next day, as I prepared to drive to Singapore for a doctor appointment, we knew I would drive through the worse of the a national disaster here in Malaysia.

SmokeSatelliteIn Indonesia, palm oil companies (who have all denied it) started fires to clear areas of the tropic jungle so they can expand their operations. They have been doing it the last few years. Supposedily, some of the companies are backed by Malay and Singaporean business investors – so it’s not just Indonesia to blame. Casting aside the issue of killing of countless forms of beneficial vegetation and animals, and reducing CO2 and other beneficial effects of the forest, the resulting pollution has hurt millions of humans in Asia. In this satellite photo from two days ago, you can see the huge amounts of smoke over the Malaysia peninsula and where we are located in the upper left. People are having a variety of health issues from the very poor air quality in the paths of the smoke and ash.

We had heard the resulting smoke and haze was causing horrible pollution down in Singapore and even Kuala Lumpur. But, apparently a south wind was blowing it further north. As I drove south, the haze became so bad that I never saw the buildings of KL as I passed what looked like awful car pollution, or fog. Fortunately, as I got south of KL the haze reduced and visibility was nearly 1-2 miles by the time I got to Singapore.

When I drove back to Pangkor the next day, Singapore was nearly clear. But, the smoke and haze got increasingly worse as I got north. Especially north of KL. In fact, 50 km south of Pangkor it was so bad it was not safe to pass cars because you couldn’t see more than 200-300 meters! It looked like a war zone as the sun was setting. I wanted to make it back before dark, so I didn’t stop to take pictures.

smokeymarinaOn Tuesday morning, you could smell the smoke and feel ash in your mouth if you didn’t wear a mask. The picture here shows our marina a little past sunrise. There’s supposed to be a hill visible less than 2 km away, but it was invisible. The sun was still red nearly 2 hours after sunrise. We could not see Pangkor island – also less than 2 km away.

Fortunately we had good masks on board, and we ran our A/C continuously. We changed the filter of the A/C which was caked with dust and ash after only a few days. They have a pollution index in Malaysia which only ranks as high as 300 – which is considered unsafe. Pangkor was at 333 yesterday! Very unsafe conditions! We stayed inside as much as possible, but we did go to a mall where we figured they have better filtration (a new mall) and spent a couple of hours there.

It rained a bit last night, and I can see Pangkor island this morning. We’ll hope the smoke doesn’t come back. But, there’s no guarantee.

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