Penang island disappears – but only for a while

Barely visible: The haze clouding the view of the Penang Bridge in Batu Uban at 9.30am in Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: The 68-storey Komtar building was hardly visible, and all of Penang island was just a blur from the mainland, but Air Pollutant Index (API) readings were still at “moderate” levels at four stations in the state.

The Department of Environment’s (DOE) website showed that the reading at Seberang Jaya station increased slightly from 75 at 6am to 79 at 3pm. However, the API reading at Prai station was a little worse, rising from 80 at 6am to 86 in the afternoon.

On the island, Minden station showed 70, and Balik Pulau station recorded 75 as of 3pm.

Visibility, however, was poor in the morning, especially between the mainland and the island.

Civil servant Mohd Nasrul Hakim, 44, said he was shocked to see Penang island blanketed in a haze while he was on his way to work in Komtar.

“I was driving from my house in Seberang Jaya. When I reached Penang Bridge, I couldn’t see Komtar at all,” he said.

The father of three said he could only see part of the island from the bridge’s middle span.

Another motorist K. Muthu, 35, wondered if there had been a forest fire in Indonesia like in previous years.

He said there had been no rain for weeks, and air pollution could have caused the air quality to drop.

“I hope it won’t be too serious,” he said.

It wasn’t. Visibility in Bayan Lepas had improved to 8km as of 4pm, compared with 5km at 11am.

According to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre, there are only about 30 hotspots throughout Sumatra island.

Although the southwest monsoon is steadily blowing the resulting smoke to Penang, the number of hotspots is relatively low compared to western Kalimantan, where there are over 260 hotspots with winds blowing to the South China Sea.

MetMalaysia director-general Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said there was little possibility of a significant haze event for the time being. Still, small-scale haze outbreaks could happen due to negligence or open burning.

He said Malaysia now faced a weak southwest monsoon coupled with the La Nina phenomenon, which is expected to continue until the end of this year.

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