MALAYSIA ordered some schools to close today as haze from slash-and-burn farming in Indonesia enveloped areas in and surrounding Kuala Lumpur, causing air quality to worsen to "very unhealthy" levels.
The Air Pollutant Index (API) in five districts near Kuala Lumpur yesterday as of noon was in the "very unhealthy" range, hovering between 207 and 272, reported the Malaysian Department of Environment website.
The air quality improved to the "unhealthy" range of 150 to 200 by 7pm last night.
Schools in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and two areas in the Borneo state of Sarawak were asked to shut today, The Star daily reported, quoting a statement from the Education Ministry.
District education offices were to inform parents of the children and schools in the affected areas, reported news website Malaysian Insider.
Earlier on Sept 15, schools in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Malacca were closed after API readings in some of the areas rose to nearly 200.
The Star yesterday also reported that Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had fallen ill because of the haze.
"Jerebu masih teruk (Haze is still terrible) - I have already lost my voice and my nose is blocked," Mr Hishammuddin tweeted yesterday.
Advising a Twitter user whose son has asthma, he said: "I'm asthmatic too - keep him indoors."
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is in the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly, yesterday advised Malaysians via his Twitter account to reduce outdoor activities and to wear face masks if necessary.
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The haze caused the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang, Selangor, to be closed for nearly three hours after visibility plunged below 300m, The Star reported.
Malaysia Airlines said only one of its planes from Sarawak, which was headed for Kuala Lumpur International Airport, was diverted to Penang due to poor visibility.
Air service between Kuching, capital of Malaysia's state of Sabah, and the Indonesian city of Pontianak - both of which are on Borneo - was halted until further notice.
Malaysia, Singapore and large expanses of Indonesia have suffered for weeks from haze produced by fires on plantations and peatlands in Sumatra and Borneo that were illegally cleared by burning.
The crisis grips the region nearly every year during the dry season, but the current outbreak is one of the worst and longest lasting in years, reported Agence France-Presse.
Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Saturday that "fires continue to rage" despite a push to extinguish the blazes by more than 25,000 military, police and other personnel, reported Agence France-Presse.