SEP 28 1997

S'poreans leave country in search of fresh air

By Tan Shzr Ee and Pearl Lee

THE haze has not only stopped tourists from flying into Singapore, but has also chased away Singaporeans craving for blue skies and fresh air.

At Changi Airport yesterday morning, architect Patrick Lawrence, 42, was sending his wife, Josie, and their 11-month-old daughter to Taiwan for a month, where his in-laws live.

He said: "My daughter has congenital heart disease and she's had surgery, so we're worried that she might be susceptible to the haze. It's 150, 160 all the time, so they're not coming back till November. We're crossing our fingers that it will clear by then."

Housewife Fen Cheng Cheng, 30, was also headed for Taiwan with her seven-year-old son.

"He's studying at a language school here, and they're having their holidays now. But the weather's so awful, he can't go swimming or do anything outdoors. Also, I'm mildly asthmatic, so we have to be very careful. If it doesn't clear by the time we get back, we'll buy masks."

These families are among a growing group of people leaving Singapore, said travel agents on Friday.

The increase in tour bookings in the months of September and October is unusual because it is an off-peak season.

At Chan Brothers, bookings went up by almost a third. More than 250 people are leaving each week. This time last year, there were fewer than 200 a week.

At Shahidah Travel, bookings for Australian tours went up by 60 per cent, and at Sino-American Tours, enquiries over the phone for all tour packages were coming in at about 70 per hour.

The most popular destination, said the travel agents, is Australia, followed by the United States and Europe.

Most Singaporeans preferred Australia because it was far enough to avoid the haze but close enough to be affordable. Miss Serene Huang, 25, a financial analyst, originally planned to escape to Phuket for a week.

She then read that the smoke had already spread to Thailand, and decided to go down to Cairns instead.

"The haze is annoying. Because of it I have to fork out another few hundred dollars to go to Australia. But the one week away is still a break from the bad air here," she said.

Two main concerns raised by about 200
Raffles Place in an era past

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