By Nicky Aulia Widadio
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AA) - Haze rising from forest and peatland fires in Indonesia covered parts of neighboring skies in Malaysia.
The smog crept into Malaysia in late July and has worsened since early September.
On Wednesday afternoon, air quality in Selangor, Penang, Sarawak, Negeri Sembilan, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya states were declared as "very unhealthy".
Local governments have closed a total of 1,484 schools in seven states, including Sarawak, Selangor, Putrajaya and Negeri Sembilan, due to the worsening haze that affected over 1 million students across the country.
The Penang government has opened an emergency centre at the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas town after six flights were diverted due to the worsening haze in the state.
The Malaysian disaster management agency said it would declare an emergency status if the air pollution index exceeded 500.
The authorities also postponed the 2019 National Warriors' Day ceremonial march-past scheduled to be held on Thursday at Dataran Pahlawan square in Putrajaya.
Based on Anadolu Agency's observations, the haze in Putrajaya was visibly thick and covered several city landmarks such as the Putra Mosque, the Prime Minister's Office and the Gemilang Bridge.
The haze is also disrupting the lives and work of residents of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, such as that of taxi driver Muhammad Nazrul Nizam, 39, who said the haze disrupted his work, especially when driving and escorting foreign tourists.
"I don’t feel as safe as usual because of limited visibility," Nizam told Anadolu Agency.
He and his five-year-old child have also began coughing and had sore eyes due to haze, forcing them to seek treatment
He also expressed his hope that the Malaysian and Indonesian governments would soon find a solution to the issue.
"The haze from Indonesia is like a tradition, I think if the Indonesian government really needs help from Malaysia, why not? So that this problem can be resolved immediately," he added.
Another Malaysian, Aziz bin Abdullah, said he had to wear a mask every day.
As he works in the park of a shopping center in Putrajaya, bin Abdullah, 64, has to stay outdoors from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.
"Our boss instructed us to wear masks all the time, otherwise we will be reprimanded," he said.
Bin Abdullah has also started coughing and had sore throat and eyes over the past few days.
When seeking treatment, doctors recommended he cut down on outdoor activities.
"But I have no other choice because the job requires me to stay outside. So, I just try to drink more water to reduce its effects," he said.
Indonesian forest and peatland fires affect neighboring countries, spreading thick clouds of smoke and haze to Malaysia and Singapore
It has been a recurring problem in the country since the 1990s, flaring up every dry season to varying degrees.
*Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo contributed to this story from Jakarta