KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Education Ministry had no choice but to make the snap decision to close schools in several states when the country's Air Pollutant Index (API) index reached 195 on Monday night.
School closures were ordered in Kuala Lumpur and neighbouring states as worsening haze from Indonesian forest and agricultural fires enveloped the capital in a smoky grey shroud.
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid on Tuesday defended the announcement issued at 11.30pm on Monday.
"The haze is like a natural disaster and it's unpredictable," he said at the Teachers Training Institute (IPG) in Kuala Lumpur.
As at 8am on Tuesday, 34 areas nationwide had recorded unhealthy API readings. Air quality with API readings of 0-50 is categorised as good, 51-100 (moderate), 101-200 (unhealthy), 201-300 (very unhealthy) and 301 and above (hazardous).
Parents had taken to social media to criticise the ministry after being left in the lurch or being force to go on emergency leave.
Mahdzir said more that 1.5 million students in Selangor, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur and Negri Sembilan were affected.
He said schools will remain close in these states until further notice and parents should monitors the news for updates.
He said the ministry was monitoring API readings in Perak, Terengganu and Pahang to determine if schools here also had to close.