15 areas with unhealthy air (updated)
PETALING JAYA: Eight areas in Sarawak and seven in the peninsula recorded unhealthy air quality (Air Pollutant Index 101-200) as of 5pm today (Oct 5, 2006).
Sarikei in Sarawak was the worst with API at 178 followed by Sri Aman (177), Petra Jaya (166), Samarahan (164), Kuching (159), Sibu (159), Kapit (120) and Bintulu (107).
In the peninsula, areas with unhealthy air quality are Nilai (118), Seremban (114), Kuala Selangor, (102), Muar (104), Bukit Rambai (111), Putrajaya (102) and Malacca (104).
Thirty-three areas recorded moderate readings (51-100). They included Petaling Jaya (87) and Kuala Lumpur (94). The three with healthy air are Kangar (49), Kota Baru (47) and Labuan (45).
Yesterday, Petra Jaya recorded "very unhealthy" air with an API of 213.
The worst affected state is Sarawak where the Visibility in the worst-affected areas in Sarawak hovered between 500m and 6km.
The Meteorological Services Department said the number of hotspots in Sumatra yesterday were 325 and in Kalimantan 294.
Cloud-seeding operations were launched over Sabah and Sarawak earlier this week to minimise the effects of the haze.
"The haze condition in Peninsular Malaysia has improved slightly due to the changing wind condition. Over the weekend, with the wind blowing from the northwest direction and coupled with more convective cloud activities will further improve the haze condition in Peninsular Malaysia," the department said in a statement.
Poor visibility has affected flights in Sabah and Sarawak. "The helicopter service, a key mode of transport in Sarawak, has been stopped due to poor visibility," an official with the Department of Civil Aviation in Kuching told AFP.
Yesterday, three Malaysia Airlines (MAS) scheduled flights and an AirAsia flight were also diverted due to poor visibility," he said.
Helicopters are required to have a minimum visibility of 1.5km but visibility in most parts of the state is now less than a kilometre, the official said.
"Hopefully, by the end of the month, when the monsoon season begins, we will have rain and we will see the end of the haze," a meteorological services department official in Sarawak said.
The Malaysian and Indonesian governments have outlawed land clearing by fire but weak enforcement means the ban is largely ignored.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy told a press conference the Kuching Airport had been placed under close surveillance because of the deteriorating haze situation the past few days.
"The Department of Civil Aviation and Department of Environment are also keeping a close watch. If the visibility level in Kuching hits below 300m, the airport will be closed down," he added.
AFP reports from Saipan that smoke haze from illegal land clearing in Indonesia is causing problems on islands 3,600km away in the western Pacific.
In the US-administered Northern Mariana Islands, the Emergency Management Office said Indonesian fires were the source of haze over the islands.
The smoke comes from illegal land clearing fires in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, and Sumatra.
In Guam, near to the Northern Marianas, acting governor Tim Villagomez said the haze was likely to persist for several days but was not expected to cause health problems.
Motorists were warned to take extra care because of the poor visibility.
Indonesia's annual burn-off causes a haze that typically smothers parts of Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, as well as Indonesia.
In Indonesia, the number of respiratory problems has risen, schools have been closed and air traffic disrupted.