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F1 says plan is in place to deal with serious haze

PSI hits unhealthy range in west, but still far from last year's 400 peak

[SINGAPORE] Singapore's air quality hit the unhealthy range early Monday morning with the haze rearing its ugly head just as the city-state is gearing up for the 2014 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.

In an update, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that the 24-hour Pollution Standards Index (PSI) crossed into the unhealthy range for the Western region at 6am, likely due to hotspots in South Sumatra. As at 5pm, the 24-hr PSI was 105 in the West, and 80 to 87 for the other regions.

"Slightly hazy conditions are expected for Singapore. The overall air quality for the next 24 hours is expected to fluctuate between the high-end of the moderate range and the low-end of the unhealthy range," said the NEA.

However, the current reading is still far lower compared to levels seen last year, when the PSI crossed the 400 mark as winds carried smoke from fire-burning activities in Indonesia. Anything over the 300 threshold is deemed hazardous.

This comes just as Singapore passed the Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill in August, which will see fines slapped on firms that cause haze pollution in Singapore. An offence is deemed to have occurred if PSI reaches 101 or higher, and lasts for a continuous period of 24 hours or longer.

Commenting on the contingency plan in place if PSI levels rise further, a spokesperson for F1 race promoter Singapore GP (SGP) said - without going into details - that the possibility of haze is one of various potential issues covered in the overall contingency plan for the Singapore Grand Prix.

The spokesperson added: "The plan was formulated and refined with stake holders, government bodies and the FORMULA ONE community. In the event that the haze caused visibility, public health or operational issues, Singapore GP would work closely with the relevant agencies before making any collective decisions regarding the event."

SGP, which is backed by tycoon Ong Beng Seng, foots 40 per cent of the cost of the race while the government funds the balance 60 per cent. In 2012, Singapore extended its five-year contract as a host venue till 2017, with savings from the new contract said to bring down the costing of hosting the race from the S$150 million per race in the early years.

The Singapore Tourism Board said: "The relevant government agencies are monitoring haze conditions in Singapore closely. A co-ordinated and timely response will be taken together with race organiser SGP should there be a significant impact on race operations and experience, and bearing in mind the safety and well-being of all participants both on and off the track."

Up to 80,000 spectators could throng the Marina Bay circuit this weekend to watch the season's only night race, with roughly 40 per cent of race goers typically hailing from overseas. Guests with corporate tickets have access to the indoor suites, while public tickets such as walk-about tickets or grandstand tickets tend to be open air.

F1 weekend is often a bonanza for hotels too - especially those located along the 5.073km track - as they generally run at high occupancies and at higher-than-usual rates. Singapore Airlines (SIA), which has come onboard as the title sponsor this year, has also offered deals on airfares, as well as land packages that bundle accommodation and F1 tickets.

"The safety and welfare of our guests remain our utmost priority and we have put in place several amenities to ensure that our guests enjoy a most comfortable stay," said Tom Meyer, managing director of trackside hotels Fairmont Singapore and SwissĂ´tel The Stamford. "Air purifiers have been set aside for use in the common areas of our hotels to provide an added level of precaution for our guests, when necessary, while facemasks will be made readily available to all guests upon request." The hotel, which has limited rooms available for F1 weekend at present, expects to fill all 2,000 rooms by race weekend.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the trackside Marina Mandarin hotel told BT that the hotel hasn't received any queries on the haze from incoming guests as yet.

Besides the F1 race, the Singapore Grand Prix is slated to feature a number of outdoor entertainment events too, such as roving artistes and concerts by international stars such as Jennifer Lopez.

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