Flights in Malaysia and Singapore disrupted amid worsening haze

Several flights in Malaysia were disrupted on Monday as the visibility level in the country's northern region fell to its lowest this year because of the haze.
Several flights in Malaysia were disrupted on Monday as the visibility level in the country's northern region fell to its lowest this year because of the haze.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Flights in the region have been diverted as a result of the worsening haze that has blanketed parts of Southeast Asia and put Singapore’s Formula One race at risk after other outdoor events were also cancelled.  

The low visibility due to the haze in Malaysia has affected flights out of Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur, according to AirAsia Bhd. About 29 flights were either delayed, diverted or cancelled on Monday because of the haze, the low-cost carrier said. 

Flights in the northern Penang state and Kuching in east Malaysia were also affected in the past week, the airline said.

Over 60 people were also affected when a Malindo Air flight from Penang to Malacca had to be diverted to Johor Baru on Monday.

As at 4pm on Monday, the horizontal visibility level at Penang's Bayan Lepas was 900m while Butterworth and Prai both recorded 1km, according to The Star. In the state of Kedah, the visibility in Alor Setar was at 2km while Langkawi fared better with visibility above 10km.

Malaysia's Marine Department and Civil Aviation Department issued warnings for the industries to be on high alert as the worsening haze situation reduced visibility in some major cities and towns, The Star reported.  

On Tuesday, the air quality in Malaysia was at unhealthy levels in Kuala Lumpur and several states, with schools shut in those areas, The Star reported.

Thirty-four areas nationwide recorded unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings as at 8am, the paper said. 

In Singapore, two private jets were diverted to Changi airport from Seletar on Monday because visibility was low, Changi Airport Group said in an e-mailed response to queries. The city-state has measures to ensure the continuity of flight operations should the haze condition worsen, it said.  

Organisers of the Formula One night race in Singapore this weekend, which will also include outdoor concerts by Maroon 5 and Bon Jovi, said they have a “contingency plan” for the haze and will work with relevant agencies before making any decisions on the event.  

Running events in Singapore were also affected. SingTel's “Race Against Cancer,” which included 10km and 15km distances, was cancelled on Sunday. 

The country’s prison turned its competitive Yellow Ribbon run into a walk.  

As of 10am on Tuesday, Singapore's 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was between 126 and 151. The unhealthy range is 101-200. The three-hour PSI, an indicative reading not tied to health advisory, was 107 at 10am, after crossing the 200-mark on Monday night.

Singapore’s schools will suspend outdoor and physical activities when pollution levels are in the “very unhealthy” range, the education ministry said, and will consider closing primary and secondary schools when it reaches a “hazardous” level. 

Singapore Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Monday reiterated the city-state’s concerns about the haze to his Indonesian counterpart Siti Nurbaya, and extended its offer to help. Indonesia also agreed to share the names of companies suspected to have caused the fires, the city-state’s National Environment Agency said. The blazes are often started to clear land for plantations.