Dreaded haze heading north with air quality dropping in Malacca, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Perak and Penang

The Star, 25 June 2013

PETALING JAYA: The wind is blowing the haze up north towards Malacca, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Perak and Penang and causing worsening air quality.

The Department of Environment (DOE) said that this north-blowing wind was variable while a southwesterly wind, which was carrying thick haze from Riau, continued to blow towards the middle and south of the west and the east coasts of the peninsula.

The DOE said the haze, which initially blanketed the southern peninsula, had moved towards the north.

“At the same time, the haze has reached the east coast states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan,” it said in a statement yesterday.

The DOE said this was according to the map released by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre on Sunday.

The DOE said that the centre also reported that the number of hotspots in Indonesia had increased from 118 on Saturday to 227 on Sunday.

It was reported that Muar and Ledang districts in Johor were under a “haze emergency” after the Air Pollutant Index readings surged over 700 in these areas on Sunday, but dropped to 125 yesterday.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that the emergency declared for Muar and Ledang was over following an improvement in air quality.

However, all government agencies involved in the monitoring of the haze would continue with their efforts to safeguard public safety and health.

Meanwhile, the DOE also stated there are 173 hotspots in Malaysia, of which one is in Negri Sembilan, Terengganu (one), Sabah (three) and Sarawak (168).

As of 5pm yesterday, the API reading for Port Klang reached the “Hazardous” level of 319, a rise from 288 at 11am.

The API reading for Banting, Selangor, was 209 which was considered “Very unhealthy” at 5pm.

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 than the “Hazardous” level of 300, prompting the Government to issue a 10-day haze emergency.

In the peninsula, an emergency was declared in Kuala Selangor and Port Klang in 2005 when the API readings showed more than 500.

In George Town, it was reported that while the air quality in the southern part of Peninsular Malaysia had improved, the haze had slowly crept into the northern region as visibility dropped by 2km on the island.

Despite the blurred skyline of Penang island which was shrouded in thick haze, tourists and locals alike were hoping that the air quality would remain at moderate levels.

A check by The Star found that beach and watersport activities continued as usual along Batu Feringghi.

Tourists were seen enjoying themselves in the sun along the popular beach stretches of Batu Feringghi and Tanjung Bungah.

According to the Meteorological Department, visibility in Bayan Lepas at 9.30am was 5km and this dropped to 3km at 5pm.