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Haze shrouds Malaysian capital amid drought

Haze shrouded Malaysia's capital and its surroundings on Tuesday, causing "unhealthy" air quality due to fires from a drought that has led to water rationing. While dry spells are common in the tropical nation, the current two-month heatwave has been unusually long, sparking bushfires and water supply cuts to more than two million people as reservoirs threaten to run dry. The air pollution index rose as high as 150 on Tuesday in seven areas -- mostly in Kuala Lumpur and the central state of Selangor, the country's economic hub which surrounds the capital.

Haze-hit Indonesian province declares emergency

An Indonesian province at the heart of a Southeast Asian smog crisis last year has declared a state of emergency after being blanketed in thick haze from forest fires, officials said Thursday. Thousands have fallen ill, transport has been disrupted and schools closed after days of fires in Riau province on Sumatra island, where blazes are deliberately lit every year to clear land for palm oil and wood pulp plantations.

Southeast Asia agrees to adopt haze monitoring system

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (Reuters) - Southeast Asian nations agreed on Wednesday to adopt a new system to improve monitoring of smog caused by fires, an attempt to make plantation companies more accountable following the region's worst air pollution crisis in 16 years. Thick haze, mostly from land-clearing fires in Indonesia, blanketed Singapore and swathes of neighboring Malaysia earlier this year, stoking diplomatic tensions as air pollution climbed to the most hazardous levels since a similar crisis in 1997.

Indonesian farmers take legal action against president over haze

Indonesian farmers in a province at the centre of Southeast Asia's worst smog outbreak for years have filed a lawsuit against the president in response to the haze crisis, activists said Wednesday. Environmental groups Tuesday filed the class-action lawsuit at the Jakarta High Court on behalf of farmers from five villages in Riau province on Sumatra island. They argue President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has not done enough to curb activities, such as slash-and-burn land clearance and logging, that lead to climate change, and their lives are being deeply affected.

No quick dousing of haze woes despite early ASEAN meet

Southeast Asian nations gathering to discuss the annual shroud of hazardous smog that blights the region are unlikely to find any immediate solutions, despite a meeting to address the issue being brought forward by a month to Monday. Officials from five ASEAN member countries that form the so-called "haze" committee are scheduled to hold two-day talks over Indonesian forest fires that sent clouds of smoke into Malaysia and Singapore last month before environment ministers head into a showdown Wednesday.

Indonesian police investigate Malaysian company over haze

Indonesian police said Friday they were investigating a Malaysian company over forest fires that contributed to choking haze last month, in Southeast Asia's worst pollution crisis in years. Police said fires were found burning in the palm oil concession of Malaysian company Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad held by its Indonesian subsidiary Adei Plantation and Industry. "On Sunday the national police decided to treat members of Adei as suspects, as we found evidence fires were burning in the companies concession area," said a spokesman for the national police.

Southeast Asia smog crisis eases as rain douses fires

Fires in Indonesia that have blanketed Singapore and Malaysia in thick smog eased Wednesday after heavy rain, boosting hopes of an end to Southeast Asia's worst air pollution crisis for years. The news came as a report said the crisis had claimed its first victim with the death of an asthmatic woman in southern Malaysia, which has been badly affected. The smog from slash-and-burn agricultural fires on Sumatra island pushed haze levels to a record high in Singapore last week, shrouding residential buildings and downtown skyscrapers.

First Malaysian death blamed on smog

Smog from slash-and-burn agricultural fires in Indonesia has been blamed for killing an asthmatic woman in southern Malaysia, the first reported death attributed to the crisis, a media report said Wednesday. The Sun newspaper said Li Cai Ling, a resident of the southern town of Muar -- which saw intense air pollution at the weekend -- died on Sunday with a medical report blaming the polluted air.

Indonesian president apologises over haze

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has apologised to Singapore and Malaysia after they were cloaked in thick haze from raging forest fires on Sumatra island. "As the president of Indonesia, I apologise for what has happened and ask for the understanding of the people of Malaysia and Singapore," he said late Monday. "We accept it is our responsibility to tackle the problem."

Indonesia steps up firefighting, Malaysia still in smog

Indonesia stepped up aerial operations on Monday to extinguish forest fires raging on Sumatra island as Malaysia remained smothered by smog and Singapore enjoyed sunny skies thanks to favourable winds. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's national disaster agency, said a fourth helicopter was deployed Monday for "water bombing" sorties in addition to two airplanes conducting cloud-seeding runs to induce rain over the parched island.
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