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Malaysia faces upsurge in haze-related health complications

Malaysia on Monday faced an upsurge in health problems after thick haze blanketing Singapore moved to many parts of the country with some provinces reporting 100% jump in respiratory complications.

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia on Monday faced an upsurge in health problems after thick haze blanketing Singapore moved to many parts of the country with some provinces reporting 100 per cent jump in respiratory complications.
Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday declared emergency in the southern districts of Muar and Ledang after the smoky haze shifted from Singapore, raising the air pollution levels to the highest in 16 years.

Doctors today said public hospitals recorded an upsurge in asthma attacks, with those in Johor and Malacca jumping by more than 100 per cent.

Other haze-related health complications have also increased, Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has advised its passengers of possible last minute flight cancellations and re-timing of flights due to the haze.

MAS is also watching five airports for possible closure or interruptions should the haze worsen.

They are Kuantan`s Sultan Ahmad Shah Airport, Kota Baru`s Sultan Ismail Petra Airport, Kuala Terengganu`s Sultan Mahmud Airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

Visibility in northern Penang state has dropped to 1km even though the Air Pollutant Index (API) in the island recorded moderate levels.

"In Johor, there was a 38.5 per cent increase in cases of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and asthma (122 per cent) while conjunctivitis cases remained unchanged.

"In Malacca, cases of asthma had also increased significantly by 127 per cent, URTI (20.7 per cent) and conjunctivitis (63.6 per cent)," Abdullah said today.

API reached a measurement of 746 yesterday in Muar, the Department of Environment website said. It was far above the threshold of 300 for hazardous air quality.

Malaysia and Singapore are proposing to bring forward the sub-regional ministerial steering committee meeting on trans-boundary haze pollution from the scheduled August 20-21.

"We are proposing it to be held next week or on July 2," said Natural Resource and Environment Minister G Palanivel adding that "We are awaiting response from the other 3 member countries - Indonesia, Brunei and Thailand."

Malaysia has offered to host the meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, Health Minister S Subramaniam said Malaysia was expected to convey a strong message to their Indonesian counterparts to find permanent solutions to end the annual `man-made` haze problem.

He said that issue related to the haze was discussed by the Cabinet with the Malaysian delegate tasked with raising haze related issues that covers public health concerns.

The minister said Malaysia will support any action by Indonesia against errant Malaysian companies found to be involved in agricultural open burning activities blamed for the haze.

"If at all they (companies) are Malaysians and Indonesia does take action, Malaysia will surely support such action," Subramaniam told reporters.