KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian state declared a water crisis Wednesday over a dry spell that has parched much of the normally rain-bathed country and caused mounting worries over dwindling reservoirs.
Deputy water minister Mahdzir Khalid warned Tuesday that the government was planning to carry out cloud seeding over the capital Kuala Lumpur and its surroundings, where water reserve levels have been critical since last week.
Negeri Sembilan, just south of Kuala Lumpur, declared a "state of crisis" on Wednesday. The central state shares its water supply with the capital and another state, Selangor, the country's main economic engine.
"We have not had any rain here over the past two months, and this has caused water levels at our seven dams to reach critical levels," Negeri Sembilan chief minister Mohamad Hasan was quoted by The Star as saying.
Natural disaster officials in Negeri Sembilan will begin to supply treated water to about 8,000 households, where taps have run dry, he said, adding that the dams have not been able to draw any water from at least two rivers feeding them.
The meteorological department denied on Tuesday that Malaysia was in the midst of an unusually dry spell, insisting that warm and dry weather was normal during the first two months of the year.
But some consumers in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor have already experienced water rationing with reservoirs in the area reported to be half empty.
The hot spell has also contributed to the increase in dengue fever cases as it speeds up the life cycle of the aedes mosquito that carries the virus and enhances replication of the pathogen.
Deaths from the flu-like illness - which the World Health Organisation calls one of the fastest-growing viral threats globally, especially in the tropics - have nearly tripled to 22 over the first five weeks of 2014, compared to eight during the same period in 2013.
The 11,879 reported cases in the year-to-date is also a nearly four-fold increase of the illness marked by symptoms such as severe muscle and joint pain as well as in severe cases internal bleeding, organ impairment, respiratory distress and death.