No respite from haze in Malaysia as air quality remains at unhealthy levels

Airport manager Mohd Ali Osman said the two affected flights are from Air Asia on the Johor Baru-Ipoh-Singapore and Singapore-Ipoh-Johor Baru routes. PHOTO: DPA

PETALING JAYA - Malaysians saw no respite from the haze on Monday (Sept 23) with many areas recording unhealthy air pollution levels, even as the country's weather agency forecast an improvement amid an expected change in wind direction.

Four flights operated by AirAsia departing and arriving from Ipoh's Sultan Azlan Shah Airport were cancelled on Monday morning due to poor visibility as a result of the haze, The Star reported.

Airport manager Mohd Ali Osman said the visibility at the airport was only about 2km at 7.30am.

He said the four flights that were affected were the Johor Baru-Ipoh-Singapore and Singapore-Ipoh-Johor Baru routes at 9.20am and 12.50pm, respectively.

He said the four flights were carrying more than 200 passengers, and added that the visibility from the tower observation deck was only 3km.

The Malaysian Air Pollution Index Management portal on Monday night showed many areas recording unhealthy air quality readings.

The highest Air Pollutant Index (API) reading was recorded in Johan Setia in Klang at 168, down from 213 in the morning. Other areas with high API readings were Nilai in Negeri Sembilan at 164, Seri Manjung in Perak at 155 and Temerloh in Pahang at 153.

An API reading of between zero and 50 is good while 51 to 100 is moderate, 101 to 200 is unhealthy, 201 to 300 very unhealthy, and 301 and above deemed hazardous.

More parts of the country have experienced polluted air as the geographical scope of the haze has widened.

The Meteorological Department has forecast that the haze will be clearing up soon as a change in wind direction is expected to blow the haze away from the country.

The department said last Saturday that the country is expected to see winds coming from the east or north-east in the coming days.

"With the presence of winds blowing from this direction, it is expected that the haze blowing from our neighbouring country will no longer head towards us and the haze situation will improve," it said.

Haze caused by forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia has spread to countries in the region including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

The fires, an annual problem that often strains ties between Indonesia and its neighbours, are usually caused by farmers and companies clearing land using illegal slash-and-burn techniques to save costs.

Malaysia's Malindo Air on Monday cancelled its flight from Melaka to the Indonesian city of Pekanbaru due to haze that brought visibility at the airport in Pekanbaru down to only 600m, Bernama reported.

Eleven passengers were affected, said Melaka Public Works, Transport and Public Amenities Committee chairman Mohd Sofi Abdul Wahab.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's weather agency on Monday said that the haze is likely to be reduced with the arrival of the monsoon transition period.

The transition period, which begins Tuesday and will last until early November, will bring more thunderstorms and heavy rainfall.

The Education Ministry on Monday announced that there would be no school closures Tuesday given that many areas saw an improvement from the very unhealthy air pollutant readings recorded last week, Bernama reported.

It also said schools in areas affected by the haze with readings of more than 200 may postpone the lower secondary oral assessment tests which began on Monday and will continue until tomorrow. It said the tests can be postponed until Oct 31.

It added that school administrators had already been informed of the steps to be taken in order for the tests to be conducted.

The ministry has already reminded schools with API readings of more than 100 to stop all outdoor activities and to postpone outdoor sports and celebrations.

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