World

Indonesia accuses Malaysia of haze cover-up

Indonesian minister says smoke in KL and Sarawak is originating from within Malaysia

Malaysia is trying to absolve itself of blame over the haze.

That is what Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar seemed to be implying when she accused Malaysia of not revealing certain information about the haze.

In a report in Antara yesterday, she was quoted as saying: "The smoke that entered Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, is from Sarawak and from Peninsular Malaysia, and also maybe some from West Kalimantan.

"The Malaysian government should explain this objectively."

She also said it was not true that the haze travelled from Indonesia's Riau to Singapore.

"Not true, there is no smog crossing over to Singapore from Riau. Hot spots in Riau have dropped," she said.

Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) said yesterday that 629 hot spots were detected in Sumatra, mostly in the provinces of Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra.

There were 537 hot spots on Tuesday, up from 333 on Sunday.

In Kalimantan, a total of 1,584 hot spots were detected yesterday, a significant increase from 749 on Tuesday.

The NEA said on its Twitter page that the haze situation is expected to persist and Singapore may experience occasional hazy conditions.

As at 6pm yesterday, the NEA told The New Paper that the 24-hr PSI was between 69 and 75, in the moderate range.

The PM2.5 concentration readings were between 24 to 39, in the normal band.

But things were not so sunny in Indonesia's Riau province.

Riau provincial secretary Ahmad Syah Harofie said air pollution hit hazardous levels in the provincial capital Pekanbaru and was very unhealthy in many other areas.

Since Tuesday, several thousand schools there and in three other areas have been closed, AP reported.

The authorities in Jambi, another province on Sumatra island, also ordered several thousand schools to close.

About 8,000 people have suffered respiratory problems in the past week alone, according to Jambi's health office.

Poor visibility caused delays at several airports yesterday, AP reported.

Thousands of people in Pekanbaru held Islamic prayers for rain outside the governor's office, Reuters reported.

Many of those taking part wore face masks to protect themselves from the smoke, Antara reported.

"We're doing everything we can, now we pray to Allah for the rain," Deputy Provincial Governor Edy Nasution told the news agency.

Similar prayers were held in towns in Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of Borneo, where the air quality has been at unhealthy levels and schools have been forced to close, the news agency said.

Mosques in Malaysia have also been encouraged to hold prayers for rain, said the head of Malaysia's Islamic Development Department Mohamad Nordin, according to the state news agency Bernama.

UNHEALTHY

Readings in six areas in Selangor recorded unhealthy air quality as of 7am yesterday.

According to Malaysia's Department of Environment website, Shah Alam hit 133, Klang recorded 121, Klang got to 158, Petaling Jaya reached 135 and Kuala Selangor was at 106, The Star reported.

Anger in Sarawak, where readings hit 156 in the capital Kuching, is rising.

An official demanded Indonesia send face masks and medical supplies to Malaysia for those affected by the pollution.

"Until they suffer economically, they will not take our complaints seriously," Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister James Masing was quoted as saying in the Malay Mail news portal.

"The Indonesian government must bear the full brunt of responsibility for the haze in Sarawak." - ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TATIANA MOHAMAD ROSLI

WORLD