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As Air Pollutant Index readings in Penang breached 200 and entered “very unhealthy” levels yesterday, five SilkAir flights have been cancelled. Another flight bound for Penang had to be diverted to Medan, Indonesia – more than 400km away. Flights in and out of Ipoh and Subang have also been disrupted to worsening haze.

Scoot cancelled all six of its flights between Singapore and Ipoh’s Sultan Azlan Shah Airport, including two flights that were delayed from the day before. Firefly also had to cancel all 12 of its flights between Seletar Airport and Subang Airport due to poor visibility.

The haze situation took a turn for the worse with a total of 238 hot spots detected in Sumatra.

The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index deteriorated from 97-113 in the “moderate” to “unhealthy” band at 6am to 119-140 in the “unhealthy” band at 10pm.

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According to a Malaysian news site The Malay Mail, an emergency centre has been opened at Penang’s airport to manage issues regarding flights affected by the haze.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow was quoted as saying visibility at the airport fell to just 1.5km at one point.

“Customers with flights to and from Malaysia are encouraged to prepare for possible contingencies in their travel plans, including purchasing travel insurance,” Scoot said in an advisory.

The Straits Times got a statement from a Firefly spokesman saying that it would continue to monitor the situation for the 12 flights scheduled today between Seletar Airport and Subang Airport.

Based on NEA statements, the deterioration in air quality is due to “increased haziness” over southern Sumatra.

A total of 109 hotspots were detected in Sumatra, down from 233 on Monday, but this was due to a “partial satellite pass.” This is when a satellite’s field of view covers only part of a region of interest as the satellite orbits the earth.

There is still moderate to dense smoke haze in Indonesia’s central and southern provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra and Lampung, said NEA.

Earlier on Tuesday, the environment agency said authorities have put in place “robust action plans” to minimise and manage the impact of haze on the public.

These include making sure that there are enough N95 masks, and for hospitals to be ready for any increase in haze-related accidents and illnesses. -/TISG

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