KUALA LUMPUR • More than 250 Malaysian schools were closed yesterday due to a heatwave brought on by the El Nino weather phenomenon which is severely affecting food production and causing chronic water shortage in many countries.
The authorities ordered 259 schools in the states of Perlis and Pahang to shut after temperatures soared above 37 deg C over a 72-hour period, according to local reports.
The Education Ministry said the decision was made to protect some 100,000 students.
The sweltering heat in Malaysia has reportedly slowed vegetable production, leading to price hikes.
Paddy fields and rubber plantations have also been affected by the severe temperature rise.
January and February smashed global temperature records, the World Meteorological Organisation said last month, attributing the highs to the "unprecedented" advance of climate change.
Many parts of Asia have been affected by the strong El Nino dry spell like agricultural land in Thailand and the Philippines.
For this month, areas in the north of peninsular Malaysia - Perlis, Kedah, Penang, northern Perak, Kelantan and northern Terengganu - are expected to experience slightly below-average rainfall, whereas normal average rainfall is expected elsewhere in peninsular Malaysia throughout the month.
El Nino is triggered by a warming in sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. It can cause unusually heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought in others.
But Malaysia's Meteorological Department said the current heatwave is expected to ease soon. "The worst is over because the inter-monsoon season started last week and more rain is expected," said director-general Che Gayah Ismail.
Meanwhile, some islanders on Sabah's northern Pulau Banggi have resorted to sharing drain water with animals. A two-hour downpour on Saturday did little to quench the earth.
The Sabah Water Department plans to send 30,000 litres of water by boat to Banggi.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK