The haze situation took a predictable turn for the worse by engulfing Johor and its immediate neighbour, Singapore, prompting environmentalists to demand for a permanent solution to the annual health catastrophe.
While Malacca and Negri Sembilan were also badly affected, it was Johor that took the hardest hit with the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings in Muar and Pasir Gudang shooting past the hazardous level of 300, Muar recorded the highest reading of 383 at 11am and Pasir Gudang with 333 at 5pm.
Two other areas, Kota Tinggi and Larkin Lama, recorded 291 and 219 respectively at 5pm.
API readings of 0 to 50 are considered good, followed by moderate (51-100), unhealthy (101-200), very unhealthy (201-300) and hazardous (past 300).
The health hazard forced the authorities to close all 221 schools in Muar and Ledang for two days. A similar directive was also given to shut down all schools in Batu Pahat.
The decision was made by the state education department after many students reportedly faced breathing difficulties.
More schools may follow suit, with Education director-general Tan Sri Abdul Ghafar Mahmud saying yesterday that all schools in areas recording a reading of more than 300 would automatically be closed.
Ghafar said in cases where the API breached 150, schools must halt all outdoor activities which involved students with high risk. "If it is to reach 250 or more, then the school should stop all co-curricular and outdoor activities.
"Any school located in areas with an API exceeding 300 should be shut down immediately, after which the school authorities are required to report to the District Education Office (PPD) and the National Registration Department (JPN)," he said in a statement yesterday.
Ghafar urged school authorities to constantly monitor and keep tabs on the haze situation from credible sources such as the media and the Department of Environment's website.
"Students are advised to wear masks, while school authorities are urged to seek immediate medical attention for students found to be ill.
"The ministry has opened an operations room to monitor the phenomenon."
The Johor Health Deparment yesterday issued a reminder for the public, especially children and the elderly, to limit heir outdoor activities and seek immediate treatment for breathing difficulties.
State director Dr Mohd Khairi Yakub said all API reading stations in Johor had showed unhealthy readings since Saturday.