Sunday, June 16, 2013

Air at unhealthy level in 5 towns

The haze in Kuala Lumpur city centre causing poor visibility, made worse by the continuing hot spell.

101 hotspots in Sumatra worsen haze in Klang Valley and other states

KUALA LUMPUR: THE air quality in five towns was recorded as "unhealthy", with Air Pollutant Index (API) readings above 100 recorded yesterday after the haze returned in the peninsula on Saturday.

The Department of Environment (DOE) website listed API readings from 52 air quality monitoring stations recorded at 5pm yesterday, with unhealthy levels in Malacca city (API 161), Bukit Rambai, Malacca (API 135), Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan (API 120), Kemaman, Terengganu (API 108) and Port Klang, Selangor (API 103).

At 11am yesterday, the API reading at Muar, Johor, was at 110, but conditions improved when the API levels decreased to 86 at 5pm.

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Other areas in the peninsula showed good and moderate API readings. The API reading is "good" when the reading is between zero and 50, "moderate" (51 to 100), "unhealthy" (101 to 200), "very unhealthy" (201 to 300) and "hazardous" (above 300).

It is based on the average daily concentrations of air pollutants, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and dust particulates.

A satellite image by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre showed 101 hotspots in Sumatra, Indonesia, contributing to the haze, compared with only 46 hotspots on Friday.

DOE director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan said the haze was also caused by the westerly monsoon season, with winds blowing from central Sumatra.

Peat fire was detected in some areas in Selangor, namely in Kampung Busut Baru, Pulau Kempas in Mukim Tanjung Dua Belas, Kuala Langat North district and Kuala Langat South Forest Reserve.

Halimah said there were still patches of smoke in the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve along the Elite Highway.

"The situation in all these areas is under control and does not contribute to the increase in API in Klang Valley."

She added that no other fires were detected in regions with increased API readings at unhealthy levels in Kemaman, Port Dickson, , Bukit Rambai, Malacca City and Muar.

The department advised the public not to carry out open burning and alert the Fire and Rescue Department at 999 or DOE at 1-800-88-2727 if there was a fire.

In Malacca, state DOE director Abd Hafiz Abd Samad advised people to stay indoors and drink plenty of water.

"Children or those who have medical conditions such as asthma should seek medical attention as soon as possible if they experience any breathing difficulty or discomfort."

Hafiz added that the state DOE had set up a team to monitor areas where open burning regularly occurred. Checks by the New Straits Times found visibility in Malacca was about 3km.

In Muar, the hazy condition in the Straits of Malacca improved yesterday following clear and sunny skies.

During its peak last week, the haze had reduced visibility at sea to less than 500m and hit hundreds of fishing villages in Johor's west coast.

Koh Tee Tee, 46, of Parit Jawa fishing village, said visibility had improved to about a nautical mile, but his catch was still poor.

Muar-Batu Pahat Fishermen's Association president Ser Boon Huat said the price of fish had increased by almost 100 per cent.

"I have also received complaints from fishermen of painful watery eyes, runny nose, cough, fever and vomiting when exposed to the haze."

Ser advised fishermen to take heed of the Meteorological Department advisories before venturing out to sea, adding that they had to be prepared for more haze from forest fires in Sumatra in view of the hot season.

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