Malaysia Orders Schools Shut Monday as Air Quality Worsens

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Malaysia ordered some schools to close as the air quality in areas surrounding Kuala Lumpur worsened to “very unhealthy” levels.

The Air Pollutant Index was between 207 and 272 in five districts near the capital as of noon Kuala Lumpur time, according to data on the Malaysian Department of Environment website. The air quality has since improved as of 4 p.m. Schools in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and two areas in Sarawak were asked to shut on Monday, the education ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

Smoke from Indonesian forest fires has blanketed the region with a layer of haze in the past few weeks. A gauge in Singapore had climbed to one-year high of 334 on Friday, a reading classified as “hazardous”, prompting that nation to shut schools and suspend some outdoor events.

A reading of between 201 and 300 is classified as “very unhealthy” in Malaysia and is the second-highest level, below “hazardous.”

Singapore named four Indonesian companies it believes may have contributed to the smoke and said it would apply more pressure on palm-oil and forestry businesses responsible for the blazes.

Investigations aided by meteorological data and satellite imagery showed fires on Indonesian land concessions controlled by PT Rimba Hutani Mas, PT Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, PT Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa and PT Wachyuni Mandira, Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said in a statement. Representatives of the companies couldn’t be reached for comment by telephone on Saturday.

The ministry also said it served Singapore-based Asia Pulp & Paper Co. with a notice for information on its subsidiaries, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions. Aniela Maria, listed as the media contact person on the company’s website, didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on Sunday.

Singapore reported Sunday that its three-hour pollutant standards index stood at 132 at 5 p.m. A level exceeding 100 indicates “unhealthy” levels.

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