Office workers scurried along sidewalks near the Petronas Twin Towers during lunch hour yesterday to cool off indoors.
"Thank goodness for air-conditioning that's everywhere," said Mr Alexis Ng, 29, who works in a real- estate office near the towers.
Outdoors, the temperature rose to 35 deg C in Kuala Lumpur yesterday but the real feel was 42 deg C, according to Accuweather.com.
As weather officials warned that temperatures are not expected to moderate until next month, the authorities are scrambling to come up with an "action plan" to try to beat the heat.
Worst hit are six areas in the north - Chuping, Perlis; Alor Setar, Kedah; Ipoh and Lubuk Merbau, Perak; and Batu Embun and Temerloh, Pahang. Temperatures in some of those areas have reached 38.5 deg C. That has dried up irrigation canals, threatened the sweet mango trees of Perlis, and turned Penang's green Esplanade brown.
A lack of rain has also reduced water levels at five dams in Peninsular Malaysia to below 50 per cent.
The government warned citizens to stay indoors between noon and 3pm, especially this Sunday when the spring equinox is expected to bring even hotter weather.
Experts are counting on the monsoon season next month to reduce temperatures and restore humidity. The government announced that it will draw up plans today to deal with the weather until then.
"Considering that a heatwave has been declared, we will expedite the formation of this task force to get these preparatory measures in place," said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, according to the Malay Mail Online. The Meteorological Department declares a heatwave when temperatures exceed 35 deg C for five consecutive days or 37 deg C for three straight days.
Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi said that today's Cabinet meeting will discuss such measures as closing schools or a temporary halt on school outdoor activities.
As of yesterday, the Education Ministry said that schools will remain open as usual on Monday, but that parents would be notified a day prior in the event of school closure.
The multi-agency task force led by Mr Wan Junaidi would include resources from other ministries and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, which operates firefighting aircraft.
On Sunday, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Wilfred Madius Tangau advised children and senior citizens to take precautions if they engage in outdoor activities, especially to keep hydrated.
State governments have not implemented water rationing but the National Water Services Commission advised people to use it sparingly.