Haze: Two districts under ‘haze emergency’

The Star, 24 Jun 2013

PETALING JAYA: The Muar and Ledang districts in Johor are now under a “haze emergency” after the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings surged over 700 in these areas.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the emergency status would remain until further notice.

“However, it must be clarified that this does not involve a curfew and there will not be any change to the existing system of the ruling state and federal governments.

“All related ministries and agencies at the federal, state and district levels must plan and take action to ensure the safety and health of the public,” the Prime Minister said yesterday.

He urged the people to abide by the emergency guidelines issued by the National Security Council (NSC).

Under the guidelines, aimed at ensuring public safety and health, federal, state and district level natural disaster, management committees must advise the closure of schools and childcare centres, government and private sector offices and other work premises, including factories, plantations, construction sites, quarries and earthwork sites.

Billows of smoke resulting from open burning in Petaling Jaya yesterday. Billows of smoke resulting from open burning in Petaling Jaya yesterday.

However, services related to water, electricity, public health, safety, radio and telecommunication, transport and finances are exempt.

But even as the haze takes its toll on the country, there are still thoughtless Malaysians who compound the problem by continuing with open burning.

API readings between 51 and 100 are considered “moderate”, 101 to 200 as “unhealthy” and 201 to 300 “very unhealthy”.

Any reading above 300 is “hazardous” while readings above 500 come under “emergency”.

Malaysia’s worst reported case of haze was in 1997 when the API reading in Kuching spiked to 839, or 539 higher that the “hazardous” level of 300, prompting the Government to issue a 10-day haze emergency.

In the peninsula, an emergency had been declared in Kuala Selangor and Port Klang in 2005 when the API readings at these places showed more than 500.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said a regional map issued by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre showed thick smog moving from Riau in Sumatra towards the central and south-west regions of the peninsula.

Satellite image reports from the ASMC also showed that the number of hot spots detected in Sumatra had almost doubled from 64 on Friday to 118 on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airports Bhd operations senior general manager Datuk Azmi Murad said two Malaysia Airlines flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan were cancelled due to the haze, adding that the rest of operations was normal and the situation was being monitored.

He said the flight at 6.30pm was cancelled because visibility in Kuantan was only 400m, while the other flight, scheduled for 10.10pm was moved to this morning.