Malaysia on alert as smog cancels flights, prompts health warnings


Kuala Lumpur/Jakarta (dpa) – Malaysia’s maritime and aviation departments on Sunday issued warnings over poor visibility caused by the worsening haze in the capital and elsewhere.

At least two international flights were diverted during the past two days due to poor visibility, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said.

He added that some maritime activities would be suspended if visibility drops below 1 nautical mile or 1.8 kilometres, but he did not specify what would be affected.

The smoky haze hovering over Malaysia is caused by the ongoing plantation and forest fires in the nearby Indonesian provinces of Sumatra and Kalimantan, where open burning to clear lands is common.

The environment department said Sunday the air pollution index in Kuala Lumpur and in almost all areas on the peninsula have reached unhealthy levels.

But the health ministry said there had been no marked increase in respiratory ailments due to the worsening haze. It warned residents, especially those with asthma, to avoid the outdoors or to use a face mask when going outside.

In Indonesia, at least 19 flights to and from Pekanbaru, on Sumatra island, were cancelled Sunday and tens of others were delayed due to the thick smog.

Visibility at the airport dropped to 300 meters at one point early Sunday before improving later in the day, an airport official told local media.

The haze is also blanketing Singapore, according to reports.