Haze Returns in Malaysia
Haze Returns in MalaysiaReuters

The deadly haze which engulfed Malaysia last month has returned with areas of Malacca and Riau reporting contaminated air and low visibility due to a major rise in fire hot spots of Sumatra.

The Malaysian Department of Environment (DoE) issued a statement that the fire hotspots in Central Sumatra have jumped to 159 in Central Sumatra on Saturday from 43, as recorded the previous day based on reports of Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC).

"DOE is monitoring the situation closely and is looking out for any open burning," Department of Environment (DOE) director-general Datuk Halimah Hassansaid.

Areas of Bukit Rambai, Malacca city and Banting reported unhealthy Air pollution Index (API) readings of 117, 124 and 105, respectively, as recorded on Monday morning itself. Malacca City witnessed shrouded skies on Sunday which have now extended to Banting.

In the API index, figures between 0 to 50 are considered good, 51 to 100 moderate, 101 to 200 unhealthy, 201 to 300 very unhealthy and above 300 hazardous.

Due to the unexpected surge in the fires on Saturday, 31 locations across the country now have moderate readings which till recently.

Singapore has been issued a preventive alert with higher chances of haze if the wind changes its direction.

Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) warned citizens of the haze saying, "Should there be a change in the wind direction from the west, Singapore may experience hazy conditions," reported Bernama.

The increase in the fires is a deep concern for Malaysia and its neigbours as the DOE predicted hazy days ahead and drier weather ahead.

Muhammad Helmi Abdullah, central forecasting office director of Meteorological Department said, "If conditions worsen, we will look at the possibility of conducting cloud seeding again."

The Southeast Asian haze last month had spiked the pollution levels in several areas of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore to hazardous levels with many schools being force to shut down as areas reported API readings bordering the 300 range.

Indonesian police investigating into the haze had blamed Malaysian company PT Adei Plantations as the cause of the deadly fire which the firm denied.