KL delays cloud seeding due to search for missing MAS jet

KL delays cloud seeding due to search for missing MAS jet
Thick haze blanketing the Westport area in Port Klang, Malaysia,

PETALING JAYA - The Malaysian Meteorological Department will postpone cloud-seeding operations indefinitely until the search-and-rescue mission for the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) jet is over.

The exercise was supposed to begin on Sunday but was postponed when the aircraft often used for the purpose - the C-130 Hercules by the Royal Malaysian Air Force - was deployed to help in the search, atmospheric science and cloud-seeding division director Azhar Ishak was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.

The cloud-seeding operations were scheduled to be conducted over water catchment areas in Kedah, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor to help ease the country's dry spell.

But Mr Azhar said as the inter-monsoon season is approaching, wind conditions will improve and may bring about rainfall.

"The weather is transitioning from the north-east to the south-west monsoon. This period will begin in late March and last until early May.

"We can expect rainfall and thunderstorms in the late afternoons, especially in the west coast of the peninsula, during the period," he was quoted as saying by the Malaysian daily.

Residents, meanwhile, have to bear with the dry weather, hazy conditions and water rationing.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) levels recorded in several places have lingered in the unhealthy range in the past few days. At 6pm on Wednesday, Port Klang's API level hit 145, while the levels in Banting, Kuala Selangor and Nilai were above 100.

In Indonesia, thick smog in the Riau province of Sumatra as a result of worsening bush fires had disrupted dozens of flights, said Indonesian Transport Minister E.E. Mangindaan.

"The condition has been alarming," he was quoted as saying on Wednesday by Xinhua news agency, adding that 58 flight schedules were cancelled on Tuesday.

More than 41,000 people had also reported suffering from upper respiratory infections, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) official Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, as the Pollutant Standards Index level recorded in Riau's capital city Pekanbaru shot up to over 300.

"This data is obtained from the number of people seeking treatment at the community health centres, and of course, there are many others who prefer not to come to health facilities," he was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.

The BNPB has deployed two Russian helicopters which can carry up to 4,000 litres of water and six smaller helicopters to work on dousing the flames.

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