PETALING JAYA: Many Malaysians finally had the chance to breathe fresh air after putting up with the severe haze the past week.
Rain in several states helped wash away the smog and brought much-needed respite to the people who didn't mind setting aside their face masks for umbrellas.
Heavy rain fell in various parts of Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya in the afternoon, lasting two hours.
In Penang and Kedah, early morning showers also reduced the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings in some areas. It also rained in Johor and Negri Sembilan.
According to the Meteorological Services Department, the rain was natural and not the result of cloud seeding.
The improvement in air quality allowed schools in the Klang Valley and other parts of Selangor to reopen today, following their closure late last week.
Only five of 51 areas in the country having hazy conditions recorded unhealthy air quality as of 5pm yesterday, said the Department of Environment (DOE). API readings for the 46 other areas were either good or moderate.
Port Klang and Kuala Selangor, which were declared haze emergency areas on Thursday after the API exceeded the 500 hazardous level, recorded moderate air quality of 76 and 59 respectively.
The five areas still with unhealthy air quality were Kangar (106), Alor Star (112), Sungai Petani (103), Perai (133) and Seri Manjung (151).
Visibility has also improved in Langkawi and Bayan Lepas. The API readings for Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam, Gombak, Kajang, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur also showed an improvement from the last few days.
Nonetheless, motorists still had to switch on their headlights – this time to drive through the heavy rain in the Klang Valley, which resulted in flash floods in certain low-lying areas.
Floods were reported on major roads leading to the city from here, including the Federal Highway, Jalan Bangsar, Jalan Datuk Abu Bakar, Jalan University and Jalan Damansara.
Flooding on the inner lane along the Federal Highway also caused congestion but the water subsided half an hour after the rain stopped.
The rain may have brought relief but the authorities remain cautious as it is too soon to tell whether dry weather may return and with it the haze as there are still hotspots in Indonesia and even locally.
The DOE said according to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre, there were19 hotspots in Sumatra and 51 recorded in Kalimantan on Aug 13. Three hotspots were detected in Perak.
Related Stories:Chin: Indons yet to provide list of names Five estates flout ban Tourists back at Penang beaches Rain brings much needed relief Schools resume classes today Residents fume after six straight days without water Fires rage but sky’s blue in Medan