08/10/2005, 00.00
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Malaysia plagued by fumes from Indonesian forest fires

Cases of conjunctivitis and respiratory problems are multiplying in Kuala Lumpur. To blame are fumes coming from Indonesian forest fires.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In many areas of Malaysia, the air has become noxious after a week of sooty fog, most likely caused by forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia. Today the Malaysian government said it may declare a state of emergency and the closure of schools. Hospitals have reported a peak of cases of respiratory and eye problems because of the smoky haze which has overwhelmed Kuala Lumpur, the largest city in Malaysia, as well as seven other cities. The Department of the Environment has declared the air of eight localities as unhealthy, just below the emergency threshold. The Meteorology Department does not foresee any substantial improvement until October, when rains will contribute to clearing the air from soot, which is a mixture of dust, ashes, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide. The Health Ministry has recommended that people drink frequently and wear masks when they go out. Even ships crossing the Malacca Strait between Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra should be equipped with navigational instruments to cope with the poor visibility.

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