Tuesday July 12, 2011
By LOH FOON FONG, FLORENCE A. SAMY and SHAUN HO
PETALING JAYA: A major part of the country has been enveloped in haze due to fires in Sumatra and Borneo and there is no immediate respite in sight.
Malaysians woke up to poor visibility and lack of fresh air as they made their way to work yesterday.
The air quality worsened as the day drew on. Moderate air quality readings of between 51 and 100 were recorded in 82% or 43 areas as of 5pm yesterday compared to 73% or 36 areas at 11am and 67% at 5pm Sunday.
The remaining areas were still within the healthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings of between 0 to 50.
The South East Asia Fire Danger Rating System also listed as “extreme” (very high probability) for fires to start and spread in most parts of the peninsula, Sumatra, Sarawak and a big portion of Kalimantan. It also noted that grass fuels were highly flammable.
Hazy days: Visibility level was poor for motorists driving along the Federal Highway at 1.15pm Monday. —RAYMOND OOI/The Star
As of 5pm yesterday, Bukit Rambai in Malacca recorded the worst air quality reading at 83, followed by Nilai in Negri Sembilan at 80. Nine areas recorded readings of above 70 including Shah Alam (79) and Port Klang (77) while Petaling Jaya had an API of 67.
The API for Sabah and Sarawak varied between 24 and 68.
The Meteorological Department (MMD) website recorded hazy weather for most of its 40 stations with visibility levels dipping in some areas in the country, including Petaling Jaya where levels dropped to 2km for several hours yesterday. Visibility levels improved in most areas by 8pm including Sepang (KLIA) which went from 1.5km at 4pm to 9km by 8pm.
However, levels still remained poor for Petaling Jaya (6km), Sitiawan (3km), Kuantan (6km) and Kuala Terengganu (6km) as of 8pm.
According to an MMD spokesperson, the weather is expected to be dry at least until tomorrow where showers are forecasted in the west coast of the peninsula and thunderstorm in the east coast.
Isolated thunderstorms are only expected to kick in later in the week.
“Sabah and Sarawak are expected to be fair today with showers in Limbang, Miri, Sandakan and the interiors of Sabah and Tawau,” the spokesperson said, adding that haze was a normal occurrence at this time of the year due to the dry weather conditions.
He added that wind conditions could have blown the smoke plumes here.
Satellite images showed 217 hotpots in Sumatra as of Sunday morning and 26 yesterday. Over 309 hotspots were detected for Borneo and 13 for the peninsula as of yesterday morning.
According to the Singapore weather website's regional hazemap, scattered hotspots with some smoke plumes were detected over central Sumatra yesterday, adding that showers had eased hotspots in other parts of Sumatra.
Hotspots could go undetected due to cloudy or overcast conditions.
Dry conditions are expected to persist until September due to the southwest monsoon.