Persekutuan, Malaysia — The haze in Sarawak is expected to worsen, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan warned yesterday.
He said the Meteorological Services Department had forecast “less than normal” rainfall in Borneo until the end of the year, giving rise to more bush fires and open burning and more haze.
“At this moment, the air quality index (API) for major towns in Sarawak is moderate but it may soon reach the unhealthy level when haze from Kalimantan blows over here,” he said after chairing the State Disaster and Relief Management committee emergency meeting at his office.
As at 7am yesterday, 181 hotspots were detected in Kalimantan, most of them located near the border, said Dr Chan.
The API for Kuching yesterday was 87; Sibu, 66; Bintulu, 89; Miri, 51; and Sarikei, 63.
Dr Chan said the relevant agencies had been directed to be prepared, with the State operations room to be opened once the API breached the 100 mark.
The State Health Department has already distributed posters on health problems caused by haze and the measures that need to be taken at the various API levels.
A reading between 101 and 200 is considered unhealthy, with the people advised to restrict outdoor activities. At the level of between 201 and 300, elderly persons with known heart or lung disease must stay indoors and reduce physical activities.
The public should wear masks for 48 hours when the API reaches 200-300; 301 and 500 is considered as hazardous while a state of haze emergency will be declared when the API surpasses 500.
Meanwhile, in most places in the country, the API remains moderate, with 14 areas recording good readings.
Visibility in all areas was more than 10km, except for Kuching (3km), Seremban (6km), Bintulu (6km), Alor Star (7km), Petaling Jaya (8km), Batu Pahat (8km), Kluang (8km) and Subang (9km).
In Muar, a change in wind direction resulted in some parts of the Malacca Straits being enveloped by haze.
Fishermen reported that visibility in the southern part of the straits was down from six to three nautical miles at noon yesterday.
Parit Jawa Fishermens Association assistant secretary Kho Sang Kiow, 47, said many fishermen returned from sea yesterday afternoon with sore eyes.
He advised fishermen to light up their boats during the day if the haze worsened.