Sarawak orders schools in haze-hit areas to close

The sky over Kuching, Sarawak, shrouded by haze today. (Bernama pic)

KUCHING: All schools in Sarawak located in areas with Air Pollutant Index (API) readings of above 200 were today told to close because of the worsening haze.

The Sarawak education department said the examination board will also postpone examinations if the API reaches 300.

The department said principals and headmasters were required to inform the district education office about the schools’ closure.

“Schools will only be reopened once the API reading has reduced to below 200,” it said in a statement.

The schools were also told to stop all outdoor activities if the API reading was above 100.

The department said parents are also allowed not to send their children to school because of the haze but they must inform the school authorities.

As at 4pm today, the API recorded a reading of 248 in Kuching, 248 in Sri Aman, 199 in Samarahan, 154 in Sarikei, 127 in Sibu and 111 in Industrial Training Institute (ILP) Miri.

An API reading of under 50 means the air quality is good, 51-100 moderate, 101-200 unhealthy, 201-300 very unhealthy, and above 300 hazardous.

Students were advised to wear nasal masks and drink more water during the haze period, the department said.

In Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, state Health and People’s Well-being Minister Frankie Poon said he was worried the transboundary haze will hit Sabah next.

Speaking to FMT, Poon said his ministry and the state health department were monitoring developments, adding the API was generally at the moderate level in all areas in the state.

Kota Kinabalu recorded an API reading of 58 as of 2pm today, with Kimanis also registering the same. The highest reading of 60 was recorded in Sandakan.

Labuan had an API reading of 64.

“At the moment, the readings are moderate but we are concerned for the people if the air quality deteriorates.

“We are keeping watch on the situation but hopefully everything will be all right,” he said.

Yesterday, Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) director-general Jailan Simon said the haze was expected to persist until the end of September.

“This is due to the low chances of heavy rain as well as the possibility of uncontrolled open burning,” he said in a statement.