MIRI (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The haze situation has worsened in Sarawak, forcing 298 schools in eight districts to shut down on Tuesday morning (Sept 17).
Some 128,291 students are affected by the closure of 245 primary and 53 secondary schools following a spike in the air pollutant index.
The Sarawak State Disaster Relief Management Committee said the Education Department issued the notice of the closure early on Tuesday.
The eight districts hit by very unhealthy air pollution levels are Betong, Bau, Kuching, Lubok Antu, Padawan, Samarahan, Sri Aman and Lundu.
Sri Aman had the highest API reading of 359, putting it well into the dangerous category.
Kuching district has the most number of affected schools, with 57,504 students forced to miss class.
The deteriorating air quality is mostly due to the transboundary haze from Kalimantan, but there are also local wildfires inside Sarawak that are contributing to the smog.
The latest updates from the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department showed that there were an average of 20 reports of forest fires daily.
The most number of cases are in Kuching, Sri Aman and Miri.
Bomba Sarawak said fire-fighters were on the ground battling these fires.
Residents in Port Dickson were offered free masks by MP Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's service centre on Tuesday, after the district registered a very unhealthy API reading on Tuesday morning.
Datuk Seri Anwar said those working outdoors should take precautionary measures until the situation improved.
"I have been told that PD has become the first area in Negri Sembilan to register a very unhealthy API reading. I would like to advise the residents, especially senior citizens and children, to also lessen outdoor activities till the air quality gets better," he said in a statement.
Mr Anwar said his service centre would start distributing N95 masks from noon.
Earlier on Tuesday, all 63 schools in the district were ordered to close due to the haze.
State education, entrepreneurship, industrialisation, investment and human capital committee chairman Dr Mohamad Rafie Abd Malek said the order was issued after the API reading in the district hit 203 at 6am.