Haze from fires in Indonesia blankets two Malaysian cities
(Source: The Jakarta Post, June22, 2004)
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP): Smoke from wildfires in Indonesia is drifting across neighboring Malaysia, shrouding its two largest cities in thick haze Tuesday and sending air quality plummeting to unhealthy levels, officials said.
For the second day, a pall of smoky haze hung in the sky over Kuala Lumpur and Penang, obscuring the skyline, reducing visibility on the streets and at the airport, and sparking reports of breathing difficulties among some people.
Asmah Ibrahim, the director of the Environment Department’s air division, said the air quality in Kuala Lumpur had deteriorated since the weekend, but could not immediately provide figures from the official air pollution index.
However, initial data Tuesday showed that some northern states and cities, including the tourist island of Penang, had unhealthy air, she said. Other parts of the Malaysian peninsular showed “moderate” air quality.
Visibility at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport was down to 3 kilometers (2 miles), from the normal 10 kilometers (6 miles), but airport spokeswoman Wan Hasmi said the flight schedule was unaffected so far.
The government on Monday banned all open burning, except cremations, in northern states.
In 1997-98, fires set mainly on oil palm plantations and agricultural holdings in Indonesia’s Sumatra and Kalimantan provinces burned out of control for weeks, destroying 10 million hectares (25 million acres) and blanketing Singapore and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia with thick smoke. (*)