KUALA LUMPUR – Authorities have declared air quality to be unhealthy in two Malaysian districts after smoke from forest fires in Indonesia blew to several parts of this country, triggering fresh fears of a haze crisis.
Malaysias environment department said the air pollution index had breached unhealthy levels in Gombak, near Kuala Lumpur, and the coastal town of Kuala Selangor as satellite pictures showed 78 forest fires raging in Indonesias Sumatra province and 391 hot spots in Kalimantan.
A severe haze cloaked large parts of Malaysia last month, including the main city of Kuala Lumpur, and pushed air pollution levels into the hazardous range.
The haze hung in the air for 10 days, forcing Malaysian authorities to declare an emergency, shutting schools and holding mass prayers for rain before weather conditions improved with changing winds and rain.
Late Sunday, the air pollution index in Gombak district registered 101 and in Kuala Selangor 108, the environment department said. Air quality is considered unhealthy if the index is above 100.
The haze is caused by fires on Indonesias Sumatra island – across a narrow strip of sea from Malaysia – where farmers, plantation owners and miners clear land during dry weather. It blows annually across the strait to Malaysia, which has often complained that Indonesia does little to prevent it.
The problem is made worse by some people in Malaysia burning waste or clearing land by burning vegetation despite a ban on open fires.