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Rainy Singapore gets break from haze as F1 nears

[SINGAPORE] Rains gave Singapore a welcome respite on Tuesday from acrid smog caused by regional forest fires, but organisers of the weekend Formula One race were anxiously watching pollution levels.

Indonesia on Tuesday deployed an extra 1,600 military personnel to fight seasonal forest and farm fires on Sumatra island, where Riau province, close to Singapore, has been placed under a state of emergency due.

Air pollution indices in Singapore were still in the moderately "unhealthy" range on Tuesday despite clearer skies. Businesses and schools were operating normally.

They reached "very unhealthy" levels after sundown on Monday, limiting visibility in the Marina Bay district where the nightime Singapore Grand Prix will be staged with glitzy parties and outdoor concerts on the sidelines.

In Malaysia, the education ministry ordered schools closed in Kuala Lumpur, three adjacent states and the nearby administrative capital of Putrajaya, as the capital was enveloped in a smoky grey shroud.

Sivanandan Karunanandan, 27, a Singaporean graphic designer, said the threat of a hazy racing weekend wouldn't deter him from attending the annual festival.

"I am not really worried about the haze," he told AFP. "I am just going to continue and go for the F1 events." "I don't think it's going to get cancelled anyway," he said.

International acts Bon Jovi, Maroon 5, Pharrell Williams, Spandau Ballet and Jimmy Cliff are the featured off-track performances this year.

Race spokesmen declined to say what contingency measures would be taken if pollution levels severely deteriorate.

Anti-pollution masks were in short supply at Singapore drug stores on Tuesday, but few pedestrians were wearing them in the central business district close to the race circuit.

Pressure to stop the annual outbreaks of smog has increased since 2013 when Southeast Asia suffered its worst air pollution crisis for more than a decade, although attempts to find a regional solution have moved slowly.