Malaysia closes its schools as chok­ing smog risk wors­ens

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

Malaysian author­i­ties on Sun­day or­dered most of the coun­try’s schools shut for two days be­cause of pos­si­ble health risks posed by the thick haze from In­done­sian for­est fires.

The ed­u­ca­tion min­istry said all schools, ex­cept a hand­ful in out­ly­ing ar­eas, must close their doors on Mon­day and Tues­day.

“The haze that is hap­pen­ing is be­yond our con­trol,” said Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Mahdzir Khalid.

“This is­sue has to be ad­dressed wisely and quickly as it can do harm to our chil­dren. We will not com­pro­mise with any­thing that may bring harm to our chil­dren in schools.”

The per­sis­tent smog has af­flicted large swathes of South­east Asia for weeks, spark­ing health alerts, nu­mer­ous school shut­downs and af­fect­ing flights.

The pol­lu­tion is on track to be the worst on record, sur­pass­ing the US$9-bil­lion dam­age recorded in 1997.

Close to half of Malaysia’s 52 pol­lu­tant mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions around the coun­try reg­is­tered “un­healthy” air qual­ity on Sun­day.

Six sta­tions, in­clud­ing one in Kuala Lumpur reg­is­tered “very un­healthy” lev­els, with one area in the out­skirts of the cap­i­tal hov­er­ing close to the “haz­ardous” level.

While Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore and large por­tions of In­done­sia have for weeks choked on pun­gent smoke from for­est fires on Su­ma­tra Is­land, the Philip­pine is­land of Cebu also suf­fered its sev­enth straight day of haze on Satur­day.

Mon­soon winds blow­ing north­east from the In­done­sian blazes could have car­ried the smog, state weather fore­caster Romeo Aguirre told AFP.

Mean­while, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Ah­mad Zahid Hamidi said on Sun­day he hoped In­done­sia could dis­cuss long term mea­sures to tackle the cri­sis.

“We hope its com­mit­ment is not only on pa­per or mere state­ments pleas­ant to the ears, but through im­ple­men­ta­tion which could end all haze prob­lems,” he was quoted as say­ing by Ber­nama.

The wors­en­ing haze has also af­fected key sport­ing events in the re­gion.

The Sin­ga­pore leg of the FINA World Cham­pi­onships — swimming’s World Cup — which in­cluded four-time U.S. Olympic gold medal­ist Missy Franklin, was called off.

One of Malaysia’s big­gest marathons set for Sun­day was also can­celled be­cause of health fears for the 30,000 run­ners, and lo­cal football league matches have been shelved.

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