Haze blanketed Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas on Friday as smoke from several large fires blew in from Sumatra to Peninsular Malaysia.
Four areas recorded air quality that was deemed “unhealthy” as at 5 p.m. local time (4 p.m. Jakarta time). Three of them are in central Selangor – Kuala Selangor, Port Klang and Shah Alam. The pollutant level in Petaling Jaya was almost as high.
The fourth “unhealthy” area was Cheras in Kuala Lumpur.
The worst reading on Friday was recorded in Port Klang, with an air pollutant score of 147 at 5 p.m. local time.
A reading in the range of 100 to 200 is considered “unhealthy”, with 201 to 300 deemed “very unhealthy”. Anything higher than 300 is “hazardous”.
Visibility was low in the Klang Valley, at around 2 kilometers, throughout the day. In good weather, the visibility is usually over 10 km.
The haze has also covered parts of Kalimantan and Java.
Many Malaysians took to the social media networks, especially Twitter, to complain about the haze that compounded the discomfort of the dry and hot weather.
A Department of Environment (DOE) statement said the haze was due to smoke blowing in from Sumatra in Indonesia in the last two days. It said the hazy conditions would last for a few days because of the dry weather in the northern and western coastal states of Peninsular Malaysia.
Satellite images showed an increasing number of hot spots in Sumatra from Tuesday. But by Friday, the number was reduced significantly.
A spokesman for the National Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics Agency's office in Pekanbaru, capital of Riau in Sumatra, told The Straits Times that seven hot spots were detected in the province on Friday, down from 27 on Thursday.
They were spread out in the stretch across the Strait of Malacca from Selangor down to Singapore and Batam in Riau Islands.
He said the authorities will carry out cloud seeding operations to induce rain if the fires continue.
In the town of Dumai in Riau, the urban area closest to the fires, the air was thick with haze from sunrise till about 1 p.m., local government spokesman Darmawan said.
“It was not too dangerous, and visibility was enough for traffic to move about safely,” he said.
But he said officials had yet to determine the cause of the haze.
Every year, farmers and plantation companies in Riau and its neighboring provinces clear their land for planting.
Many often use the cheaper but illegal slash-and-burn method, which is the chief cause of haze.