JAKARTA: Heavy rains in Indonesia yesterday could mean clear skies for Malaysia, which has been bracing for a possible return of the choking haze that blanketed much of the country earlier this month, meteorologistssaid.
Smoke from fires set by farmers, plantation owners and miners in Sumatra have in recent weeks blown across the narrow Straits of Malacca to Malaysia.
Wind shifts brought a brief respite from the haze but Malaysian officials warned it could return by tomorrow unless the fires died down.
Yesterday, rain pounded Riau, one of the hardest-hit provinces in Sumatra, said Mansyur Achmad of the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency in the provincial capital, Pekanbaru, reports AP.
Satellite images also show the possibility of heavy rain tomorrow (Sunday), Mansyur said.
Fires last week cloaked large parts of Malaysia, including capital Kuala Lumpur, pushing the air pollutant index into the hazardous range.
My prediction is that the haze will not arrive in Malaysia or Singapore in the next few days, said Taufik Hidayah, an official from the National Meteorology and Geophysics Agency here.
Steady winds carrying a large vapour cloud pointed to more rain, he said.
Malaysian skies remained clear yesterday as most of the air quality monitoring stations recorded good air quality.
Only nine of the 51 monitoring stations reported moderate levels, while no unhealthy air quality reading was reported in the peninsula, Sabah or Sarawak, a statement from the Department of Environment read.
It said Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre satellite images showed 46 hotspots in Sumatra, 14 in Kalimantan, two in Kemaman, Terengganu, and one in Sandakan, Sabah.
As at 11am yesterday, visibility in most areas was above 10km, except Sitiawan, where it was about 7km.