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UPSR candidates wearing facial masks as they enter their examination hall in Sekolah Kebangsaan Green Road in Kuching. -NSTP/Mohd Radzi Bujang

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia woke up shrouded in thick haze this morning.

In the Peninsula, twelve densely-populated areas on the west coast were smothered in heavily polluted air which reached the “unhealthy” range of the Air Pollutant Index (API), as of 7am.

Here in the capital, where skyscrapers of the central business district were difficult to make out, the API was recorded at an “unhealthy” 138. This is believed to be the highest API reading in Malaysia’s largest city since the last haze crisis in 2015.

Sekolah Kebangsaan Green Road students wearing facial masks as they listen to their teacher ahead of the UPSR exams in Kuching. - NSTP/Mohd Radzi Bujang

Other parts of the Klang Valley were also badly afflicted with haze, with the API in Johan Setia, Selangor at 158; Shah Alam (121); Banting, Selangor; (131); Klang (117); Petaling Jaya (127); Putrajaya (126); Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur (138); and Cheras (130).

The air was also at an “unhealthy” level elsewhere in the Peninsula: in Nilai, Negri Sembilan the API was 131; Seremban (110); Rompin, Pahang (197); and Tangkak, Johor (109).

A security guard at SKJ Chuang Hua No 4 in Kuching closes the gate while showing a notice of closure due to the haze. - NSTP/Hazreen Mohamad

In Sarawak, Sri Aman was still choking on “very unhealthy” air as of 7am, with the API recorded at 202.

Kuching, which has also been breathing “very unhealthy” air over the past several days, is having a mild respite, as its API fell from 241 last night, to 167 this morning.

Also experiencing a breather, so to speak, is Samarahan, where the API was at 132 today – down from 191 on Monday night.

A student at Sekolah Kebangsaan Sentul 1, in Kuala Lumpur wears a facial mask ahead of the school session. - NSTP/Mohamad Shahril Badri Saali

Other major towns and cities in Sarawak, however, are enjoying API readings in the “moderate” range this morning – ranging from 77 in Sibu to 67 in Miri.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is categorised as “good”, between 51 and 100 (moderate), between 101 and 200 (unhealthy), between 201 and 300 (very unhealthy) and more than 301 (dangerous).

A student at Sekolah Kebangsaan Sentul 1, in Kuala Lumpur is seen wearing a facial mask due to the haze. - NSTP/Mohamad Shahril Badri Saali

According to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC), forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia – in particular, the provinces of Riau and Jambi – have intensified over the last few days, leading to a build-up of moderate-to-dense smoke haze.

It said prevailing south-easterly winds are blowing the haze across the Strait of Melaka to western parts of Peninsular Malaysia.

The ASMC added that dry weather will persist in the region in the coming weeks, which means that a further deterioration in transboundary haze is expected.

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