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  Straits Times 4 Jul 07
Worsening haze forces minister to abandon copter

Straits Times 4 Jul 07
South-easterly winds blow haze away from Singapore
Arti Mulchand

Channel NewsAsia 2 Jul 07
Air quality poorer in Malaysia after Indonesian forest fires

KUALA LUMPUR - Air quality in regions of Malaysia edged towards unhealthy levels and visibility worsened due to smog from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia, a senior meteorological official said Monday.

Lim Sze Fook, director of environmental studies at the Meteorological Services Department, blamed the haze on forest-burning in Sumatra, Indonesia.

"There are more than 200 hotspots in Sumatra as of today and the winds are blowing over," Lim told AFP, adding that dry weather until the end of the week would make the haze worse.

Lim said the western coast from central Selangor state to the northern states of Perak, Penang, Kedah and Perlis was affected.

"From what the Department of Environment has told me today, all the air pollution indices are still below 100," Lim said, adding that the highest level was found in Selangor.

There were 92 hotspots in Sumatra and 76 hotspots Friday. The Air Pollution Index (API) considers a score of 101-200 to be unhealthy. The API for the five states as at Sunday evening all showed readings between 51 and 75, which is considered moderate.

The haze, which made an appearance in Penang on Saturday, worsened Monday and reduced visibility on the island, state news agency Bernama reported.

Indonesian farmers burn forests annually to clear land for agriculture. The government has outlawed the practice but weak enforcement means the ban is largely ignored. The haze hit its worst level in 1997-1998 and cost the Southeast Asian region an estimated nine billion dollars by disrupting air travel and other business activities. - AFP/ir

Straits Times 4 Jul 07
South-easterly winds blow haze away from Singapore
Arti Mulchand

SINGAPORE seems to have been spared Malaysia's haze woes - for now. The National Environment Agency (NEA) said that is because most of the hot spots for open burning in haze-producing Indonesia lie north of the country.

The current south and south-easterly winds are blowing the smoke away from Singapore to places like Kuala Lumpur and Penang instead.

As of 4pm yesterday, the PSI reading here was 36 - still in the 'good' region. The prevailing wind directions are also expected to remain the same for the next few days.

However, the NEA warned that when the wind direction shifts to being south-westerly, the haze could hit Singapore. And if the widespread illegal burning does move south of Sumatra, the clean air Singapore enjoys now could not last long, said Mr Chia Aik Song, head of fire monitoring at the National University of Singapore's Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing (Crisp).

'Historically, the haze here is worse in August and September, so how bad it will get in Singapore for this burning season is still hard to say,' added Mr Chia.

Singapore has been working with Indonesia on measures to help curb the haze situation further.

Straits Times 4 Jul 07
Worsening haze forces minister to abandon copter

SUNGAI SIPUT (PERAK) - THE worsening haze in the country yesterday forced Higher Education Minister Mustapa Mohamad to thumb a ride from a schoolteacher to get to a meeting near here.

That was because the helicopter which had been zipping Datuk Mustapa about had to make an emergency landing at 9am yesterday, when the pilot could not see anything in the thick haze.

In Penang, north of here, visibility at the international airport was at 5km yesterday morning - down from the usual range of 10km - but flights went ahead as scheduled, said Malaysia Airports Berhad manager Abdul Wahab Abdullah. Visibility was as low as 2km yesterday in some northern areas in West Malaysia. With impaired visibility came deteriorating air quality.

The Department of the Environment said yesterday that air quality in 41 out of 51 monitoring stations across the country had so far fallen from 'good' to 'moderate' since Saturday. One Penang district recorded an air pollutant index (API) reading of 98 yesterday.

API, the Malaysian equivalent of Singapore's pollutant standards index (PSI), measures airborne pollutants, and a reading above 100 is considered unhealthy.

The Malaysian Meteorological Services Division said that, as of Monday, satellite images showed nearly 270 sprawling areas on fire, mostly in Sumatra. Since 1997, Malaysia has often been hit by haze this time of the year, when farmers in Indonesia illegally set brush ablaze to clear land for planting crops.


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