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    Sep 11, 2015

    Near hazardous level of air quality over Sumatra island


    POLLUTION gauges showed that air quality in Indonesia's south Sumatra hovered just below "hazardous" level yesterday, while the haze continued to engulf the main cities of the Malaysian state of Sarawak but abated in Kuala Lumpur.

    The Air Quality Index in Palembang, capital of South Sumatra province, at 344.90 as of 10am yesterday, was just beneath the line between "very unhealthy" and "hazardous".

    That was down from a reading of 515.63 at 4am, as the haze continues to envelop the region, reported Indonesia's meteorology agency.

    Air pollution was deemed "moderate" as of 10am in both Pekanbaru and Medan, capitals of Riau and North Sumatra provinces respectively.

    The haze, caused by Indonesian farmers who burn forests to clear their land for agriculture, is an annual occurrence that sends smog wafting northwards to Singapore and Malaysia.

    The Indonesian authorities warned last week that this year's haze will be worse than in previous years, and could last through end-November.

    Meanwhile, more flights were disrupted at Sarawak's Kuching International Airport due to the haze from Indonesia's Kalimantan provinces, reported The Star daily.

    With visibility in the state capital as low as 400m yesterday morning, a number of flights had to be re-timed and diverted.

    At 2pm yesterday, the Air Pollution Index (API) was 150 in Kuching, and 174 and 155 in Samarahan and Sri Aman respectively, making them the only three Malaysian cities to be in the "unhealthy" range.

    The situation is showing no signs of improving, said The Star newspaper.

    A staggering 401 and 333 hot spots were detected in Kalimantan over Sept 4 and Sept 5 respectively by satellite.

    In Petaling Jaya, the API yesterday showed improvement, with readings back to under 50 from above 80 on Wednesday.

    On Tuesday, Indonesia became the last country to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, marking a historic step in the collective efforts by member nations to tackle the annual smog.