Malaysian schools closed, haze spreads to Thailand
| Schools have been closed in Malaysia due to smog from Indonesia blanketing the country creating health and travel problems. The air pollutant index in Shah Alam showed a dangerous reading level of 308 in the past few days. The haze is spreading to Thailand. |
KUALA LUMPUR: Most of the schools in Malaysia were on Monday shut for at
least two days as thick, noxious haze blanketed the country. The hazardous
haze emanates from smoke created by burning of forests in neighbouring
Indonesia. The slash-and-burn practice of burning of forests in summer in Indonesia creates haze that blankets parts of the archipelago and neighbouring Malaysia and
Singapore. Plantation companies in Indonesia, mostly palm oil and paper
companies, burn the forests to clear land for new trees.
Although an annual feature, this time the haze, spreading to Malaysia and
Singapore for about a month, has created health problems. It has now reached
Thailand also. Thousands of acute respiratory tract infections are recorded every
Malaysia ordered closure of 7,000 schools on Monday and Tuesday. Several
airports in Malaysia were also closed for hours in the past few days due to poor
visibility. An annual marathon in Kuala Lumpur was also among events that had
to be canceled.
Mostly the northern states of Malaysia has been hit the worst. The air pollutant
index in Shah Alam showed a reading of 308 in the past few days. An air
pollutant index reading below 50 is normal, and going above 300 is considered
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has promised action but said mitigative
efforts would take some years for results. He argued that his country was also a
victim of the smog.
Last month also schools were closed in Kuala Lumpur, three adjacent states and
the nearby Putrajaya for days. The authorities distributed free face masks.
Thousands of people in Sumatra and Borneo had fallen ill. Travel was also
disrupted due to poor visibility.
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