Haze in Malaysia reaches hazardous levels on Friday morning

KUALA LUMPUR - The haze situation in Malaysia hit hazardous levels in two districts on Friday morning.

Port Klang and Banting recorded Air Pollutant Index (API) readings of 350 and 318 respectively at 6am on Friday.

Malaysia's API and Singapore's Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) are closely related, and any reading above 301 is considered hazardous.

Given the worsening situation which started on Thursday, 131 schools in the Klang district were ordered to close on Friday by the Selangor Education Department after the API reading in Port Klang hit 233 at 5pm on Thursday.

The highest API value ever recorded was 839 in Kuching on September 23, 1997 during the 1997 Southeast Asian "haze", a euphemism for the thick smoke covering the region that year.

A total of 13 spots across the country also recorded unhealthy API readings early on Friday, Malaysian Insider reported.

They are: Petaling Jaya (186), Putrajaya (177), Batu Muda in Kuala Lumpur (176), Nilai (168), Port Dickson (167), Shah Alam (166), Kuala Selangor and Seremban (154), Cheras (147), Bukit Rambai (132), Malacca and Muar (114) and Tanjung Malim (110).

The Star reported on Friday that satellite imagery showed there were about 82 hot spots in the peninsula and that most of the fires were happening in Pahang and Johor, according to the Meteorological Department.

However, the situation is expected to improve in the coming days due to the inter-monsoon season expected in mid-March.

Director-general of the Meteorological Department Datuk Che Gayah Ismail had said on Thursday that states in the west coast of the peninsula would experience showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon during this time.

"We expect to see this wet season to last the whole of April and a little in May," she had said.

She warned, however, that the haze could be back after that in June when the southwest monsoon begins.