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The State Disaster Management Committee (JPBN) secretariat chief, Major Ismail Mahedin said some 200,000 face masks were handed over to the education department, which would would be distributed to the school children. - NSTP/MOHD RADZI BUJANG

KUCHING: Though schools are expected to be closed once the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading exceeds 201 on the Air Pollutant Index (API), the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) would nevertheless continue in Sarawak.

The State Disaster Management Committee (JPBN) secretariat chief, Major Ismail Mahedin said some 200,000 face masks were handed over to the education department, which would would be distributed to the school children.

Based on the Standard Operating Procedure, schools must close when the API readings reach the ‘very unhealthy’ level.

“School authorities are told to monitor the API reading in their respective area closely, to encourage and remind the students to use a face mask.

“Principals and headmasters can announce school closure once the area experiences ‘very unhealthy’ air quality,” he said, adding that there were 12 hot spots detected in Sarawak,1,087 in Kalimantan and 306 in Sumatera.

Ismail said a total of 40,448 pupils were sitting for the UPSR in Sarawak, which began on Wednesday, before continuing on Sept 10 (Tuesday) to 12.

As of 3pm, API readings in Samarahan and Kuching were ‘very unhealthy’, which recorded at 201 and 218, respectively.

Meanwhile, another five stations with ‘unhealthy’ air quality, were Miri (115), Samalaju (150), Sarikei (134), Sri Aman (178) and Kuala Baram (115).

Fire and rescue department has received a total of 97 calls on forest and peatland fires since Sept 1.

An API reading of 0-50 shows good air quality, 51-100 moderate, 101-200 unhealthy, 201-300 very unhealthy, and 300 and above hazardous.

In Kuala Lumpur, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) and the Sarawak government would provide an allocation for face masks to be distributed to Kuching residents, currently hit by the haze.

In a statement she said the Malaysian Meteorological Department was also looking into conducting cloud seeding operations, taking into account the atmospheric conditions in the areas.

"The people especially those in Sarawak are advised to stay indoors and to wear face masks when out in the open, to avoid health problems," she said.

Citing a report from the Department of Environment, Dr Wan Azizah said the major factor contributing to the high API readings after 455 hot spots were detected, was the forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra, Indonesia.

She said the wind patterns had spread some of the haze across to Malaysia especially to Sarawak.

“The peat bush fire incident in Kuala Baram, Miri, had also resulted in the haze,” she said adding that firefighters were still putting out fires in the area. - BERNAMA

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