Malaysia to start cloud-seeding operation at noon to battle haze if conditions ideal

A Malaysian flag flutters in front of the Putra Mosque shrouded in haze in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Sept 14, 2015.
A Malaysian flag flutters in front of the Putra Mosque shrouded in haze in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Sept 14, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - After days of worsening haze, Malaysia's Meteorological Department, National Security Council and the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) are moving in.

The Meteorological Department will begin cloud seeding operations on Tuesday (Sept 15) to bring relief to Klang Valley and Kuching. The department's atmospheric science and cloud seeding division director Maznorizan Mohamad said the operation was targeted to start by noon.

"It will depend on the availability of clouds. If it is favourable, we can start,'' she said, adding that one aircraft each will be based in Kuching and Subang airports.

Maznorizan said each cloud seeding flight would cost between RM30,000 (S$9,792) and RM40,000.

She said cloud conditions have not been ideal over the past few days. At 5pm yesterday, 32 areas nationwide recorded unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings.

These included Banting (180), Nilai (179), Port Dickson (174), Seremban (170), Bukit Rambai (174), Port Klang (175), Putrajaya (161) and Batu in Kuala Lumpur (175).

An API reading between 0 and 50 is considered good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 301 and above, hazardous.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said based on satellite images, two hotspots were detected in Sarawak on Sunday, three in Sumatra and 407 in Kalimantan.

However, Dr Wan Junaidi said the actual number of hotspots was not known due to cloud cover. He said he will meet his Indonesian counterpart on Sept 25 to ask him if assistance was needed from Malaysia to put out the forest fires there.

"The smoke from hotspots in central and west Kalimantan is expected to travel to west Sarawak in the next 48 to 72 hours," he said.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry will assist in the distribution of face masks to high risk patients in states severely affected by the haze.

Children, the elderly, the pregnant and those with heart and respiratory problems and those who are sensitive to haze will be given priority.

Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the face masks will be distributed in Johor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur and Sarawak.

"The face masks will be distributed through government hospitals and clinics in those states. The ministry will continue to monitor the haze levels and will distribute the face masks to other states should the situation require it," he said.

The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners' Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) president Dr Steven Chow said high risk patients should see their doctors to review their medication if their symptoms worsened.

Meanwhile, all schools in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negri Sembilan and Malacca have been told to close on Tuesday due to the worsening haze.

Several flights in Penang were also disrupted on Monday as the visibility level in the country's northern region fell to its lowest this year because of the haze.