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Malaysia shuts schools as air quality worsens

KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysian education ministry has ordered schools in three Malaysian states and two districts in Sarawak to be closed tomorrow (Sept 27) as air quality has worsened due to transboundary haze, while some domestic flights were cancelled till further notice.

Malaysia shuts schools as air quality worsens

Tourists take a selfie against Malaysia's landmark building Petronas Twin Towers shrouded with haze in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. Photo: AP

KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysian education ministry has ordered schools in three Malaysian states and two districts in Sarawak to be closed tomorrow (Sept 27) as air quality has worsened due to transboundary haze, while some domestic flights were cancelled till further notice. 

In a statement today, the education ministry said that, based on a continuous observation of the Air Pollution Index (API) — which tipped into the “very unhealthy” range between 201 to 300 — it decided to close all schools in Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, as well as the districts of Sri Aman and Kota Samarahan in Sarawak.

Today, the state capital of Selangor, Shah Alam, recorded the highest API reading of 281, while the Malaysian administrative capital, Putrajaya, recorded an API of 207.

Malaysian Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid also announced that, from tomorrow, local officials could take into account the visibility in a given area when deciding if schools should be closed — a U-turn from his earlier stance that schools would be closed only if the API reached 200.

“Even if the API is still between 100 and 120, but the visibility in the area is below 500m, we (would) allow the PPD and headmasters to close the affected school,” said Mr Mahdzir today, referring to district education offices.

Meanwhile, local media also reported today that all flights involving the Kuching-Pontianak and Pontianak-Kuching sector had been cancelled. “All flights to and from Pontianak has been cancelled until further notice,” said Kuching International Airport (KIA) general manager, Mohd Nadzim Hashim. Four flights originally scheduled to depart and arrive at KIA were delayed because of haze this morning, as visibility was reduced to only 800m.

Officials from the Malaysian Meteorological Department also announced plans today that they were preparing to conduct cloud seeding if the API remained in the “unhealthy” range for 72 hours.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is in the United States attending the United Nations General Assembly, took to social media today to express concern over the air quality, advising Malaysians to reduce outdoor activities and to wear face masks if necessary. AGENCIES

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