Haze is back with vengeance

Haze situation on Penang Bridge.

GEORGE TOWN - Malaysians feared haze will return with a vengeance as the air quality in several states worsened, especially in Kedah with the Air Pollutant Index (API) in Bakar Arang, Sungai Petani reaching an unhealthy level of 104 - the highest reading in the country.

The API measurement registered at the Department of Environment (DOE) monitoring station recorded the index at 4pm.

It was initially 94 at 6am before it went up to 99 by 10am.

In the tourism haven of Langkawi, it showed 77 at 6am before increasing to 86 by 10am and shot up to 96 at 4pm.

An increase in API was also noted in Alor Setar where the reading showed 71 (6am) and 77 (10am). The API increased to 87 by 4pm.

In Penang, the API in Seberang Jaya saw an increase from 89 at 6am to 94 by 10am before going up further to an unhealthy level of 103 at 4pm.

Moving south, several areas in Ipoh also recorded moderate air quality.

The API in Sri Manjung was 87 at 4pm while other areas such as SK Jalan Pegoh (82), Kampung Air Putih (75), Jalan Tasek (67) and Tanjung Malim (56) recorded such readings at the same time.

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In Port Klang, it neared the unhealthy level when it increased from 77 (6am) to 82 (4pm).

In Malacca, the API in Bukit Rambai recorded 91 at 6am and 95 at 4pm while Bandaraya Melaka recorded 73 (6am) followed by 75 (4pm).

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good, 51 and 100 (moderate), 101 and 200 (unhealthy), 201 and 300 (very unhealthy), and 301 and above (hazardous).

This latest haze situation is once again blamed on an increase of hotspots in Sumatra, where the smog shifts direction depending on where the wind blows.

Penang Education Department director Datuk Ahmad Tarmizi Kamaruddin said all schools in areas where the API had hit above the 200 mark would be closed immediately.

"If the API hit more than 150, all outdoor activities such as Physical Education must stop," he said.

Penang Agriculture, Agro-based Industry, Rural Development and Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin advised the public to wear three-ply face masks as it offered better protection.

The state government also plans to distribute masks to the public.

Kedah Health Department director Dr Ismail Abu Taat advised residents there to avoid outdoor activities if the API reading in­­creases.

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