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Malaysia's Mahathir hasn’t written to Indonesia's Jokowi on haze

Malaysian PM waiting for evidence before addressing issue with Indonesia

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he has not written to Indonesian President Joko Widodo about the haze.

"I have not written anything. We will see the evidence, because they (the Indonesians) claim that this is coming from Malaysia, so we have to verify whether it is coming from Malaysia or not," he said.

On Friday, Malaysia's Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin was reported to have said a letter would be sent by the Prime Minister's Department to Mr Joko on the trans-boundary haze blanketing parts of Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir said at an event at Putrajaya lake that Malaysia has always wanted to create a long-term plan to tackle the haze, but it will require cooperation from other countries.

Asked whether the countries included Indonesia, Dr Mahathir said: "Indonesia, and other countries, maybe."

The haze situation in Johor and Melaka worsened yesterday.

SCHOOL CLOSURES

More than 300 schools and kindergartens in Muar, Tangkak and Pontian were closed, affecting about 90,000 students after the Air Pollutant Index (API) reached very unhealthy levels.

Announcing the closures in Pontian in Johor, state Education Department director Azman Adnan said the decision was made after the API for the area shot to 220.

"All parents should not send their children to schools or kindergartens," he said.

Melaka too had to take drastic action.

All sports and outdoor activities in the state have been postponed.

Melaka's Communications, Multimedia, Non-Governmental Organisation, Youth and Sports Development Committee chairman Kerk Chee Yee said the State Sports Council has decided to delay all kinds of outdoor sporting events, including training programmes following unhealthy API levels.

"As at noon, the reading was 222, at the 'very unhealthy' level. Delaying the activities was necessary after considering advice from the Environment Department, especially on the health risks (posed to) athletes, coaches and spectators," he said in a statement yesterday.

In Indonesia, thousands of firefighters continue to struggle to contain the fires.

Those leading the response are short on equipment, with some wearing just flimsy masks and rubber boots as they blast streams of water at flames consuming the jungle - and enveloping wide swathes of South-east Asia in toxic haze.

"I'm supposed to wear proper protective gear but we've only got limited equipment," said Mr Darmadi, a soldier deployed to Kampar district on hard-hit Sumatra island.

"Still, I have to be ready when duty calls."

Thousands of personnel and water-bombing helicopters are keeping the flames at bay and the rainy season - which usually starts in October - could be the only thing able to douse them.

"To the people who started these fires, I say please don't be so selfish," said Ms Sri Wahyuni, a 31-year-old mother of three, as thick smoke floated into the backyard of her home outside Pekanbaru, in Riau.

"Stop putting other people at risk just for your benefit." - THE STAR, AFP

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