Jeli the worst-hit as Kelantan sizzles

Intense heat: The prolonged heatwave has not only caused some parts of land to be dry and cracked but also resulted in the water level at Sungai Kelantan to drop, as seen here from Kampung Pasir, Kuala Krai, Kelantan. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: Several districts in Kelantan and northern part of the country were among the worst hit with warnings of excessive heat with daily maximum temperatures hitting 35°C to 37°C for at least three days in the row.

Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) issued Level 1 warnings for heatwave in the districts of Jeli, Kuala Krai, Tanah Merah, Pasir Mas, Kubang Pasu and Padang Terap.

The nearby districts of Kota Baru and Bachok were also badly affected, leading to the confirmed death of a child. The 11-year-old boy died in Bachok on Tuesday.

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Jeli has been the worst-hit, being on the Level 1 list for 12 days from April 13 to 24.

“Jeli was also the only district to have reported Level 2 status on April 14, 15 and April 19,” said MetMalaysia Director-General Muhammad Helmi Abdullah in an interview.

MetMalaysia issues heat wave warnings for Level 1 (35°C to 37°C), Level 2 (37°C to 40°C) and Level 3 (above 40°C).

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The high temperatures in the northern states are an extension of the extremely hot weather now being experienced in Thailand and Myanmar, said climate expert Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah.

“In Kedah and Kelantan, it is around 34°C by day, cooling to around 31°C at night, similar to Thailand right now,” he said.

Prof Azizan urged people to wear hats, sunglasses or even use an umbrella when going out to reduce the effects of radiation from the sun.

“At the equator, we get very strong solar radiation. By mid-day, it can be really hot,” said Prof Azizan.

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He said it was important for the public to stay hydrated and drink lots of water.

“Stay in the shade or indoors.”

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Academy of Science fellow Prof Dr Fredolin Tangang said the current hot spell was due to the suppressed convection of the Madden Julian Oscillation since early this month.

“Suppressed convection means less cloud cover, less rainfall, increase in the sun’s thermal radiation and hot weather,” he said.

However, Prof Fredolin said the latest forecast indicated that the suppressed convection centre was moving eastwards and would be replaced by the enhanced convection centre which has opposite effects.

“It is very likely that the current hot and dry spell will end within one or two weeks. Then, it will get colder and wetter,” he added.

However, he warned that the El Nino phenomenon is expected to hit Malaysia in mid-year, with the weather again likely to be hot and sweltering.

“It will be hotter and drier than the typical conditions during the normal southwest monsoon. Haze is common during El Nino too,” said Prof Fredolin.

He said the APEC Climate Centre in Busan, South Korea, has predicted the El Nino to begin in June.

El Nino causes sea temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean to rise, bringing hot and dry weather to Malaysia.

During previous El Nino occurences, parts of Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore were blanketed by thick haze due to hundreds of peat soil fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan. The world’s hottest year was also in 2016.

Prof Fredolin, too, said it was important for children to stay hydrated and remain indoors.

“Limit outdoor exposure and drink plenty of fluid. This is especially important for children,” he added.

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