Haze drifts to other states

KUALA LUMPUR: The haze, which has shrouded the Klang Valley in the past week, has drifted to other parts of the peninsula and worsening in the east coast states. 

The smog has also started to thicken in the southern states, with Malacca health authorities claming to be treating an increasing number of patients with breathing difficulties. 

The KL International Airport saw no disruptions to flight schedules despite reduced visibility, but marine police warned ships plying the Straits of Malacca to navigate with the utmost care over the waterway, especially at night. 

Environment officials have blamed forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia’s Sumatra island for the haze, aggravated by hot and dry weather, which was one of the reasons why the usually cool Cameron High-lands is now suffering from drought. 

The Fire and Rescue Department has identified at least four states in the peninsula – Kedah, Johor, Selangor and Pahang – as well as Sabah and Sarawak as areas for possible outbreaks of major peat fires.  

Speaking to reporters in Arau, Perlis, the department's director-general Datuk Jaafar Sidek Tambi, said these states were affected by hot weather patterns and high humidity. 

He said the department would set up temporary operation centres at scenes of major peat fires to ensure they could be doused faster. 

The Meteorological Services Department’s weather forecast division director Kang Thean Shong said that while the haze was thickening in Kuantan and Mersing and some parts of the east coast, towns like Kota Baru and Kuala Terengganu were not affected yet. 

“The northern parts of the east coast are sheltered by ahigher mountain range that blocked the wind and slowed the travelling of the pollutants,” he said. 

Kuantan and Mersing registered low visibility between the range of 2km and 4km yesterday, as winds blowing in the southwest direction carried the air pollutants over from the west coast. 

Kang said the visibility level was poor in Malacca, where at one point it dropped to 600m yesterday. 

Malacca Health, Human Resources and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Seah Kwi Tong said there were an increasing number of patients with respiratory-related sicknesses seeking outpatient treatment. 

He said he received this feedback from polyclinics, clinics and hospitals in the state. 

Seah, however, said he has not received any official statistics from health departments. 

Penang was still shrouded in moderate haze but the condition has improved, with the API recorded at between 51 and 100 in Seberang Prai and on the island. 

State DOE director Dr Zulkifli Abdul Rahman said despite the improvement, the temporary ban on open burning was still effective.  

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