[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 13 August 2005, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
Malaysian smog emergency lifted
Demonstrators outside the Indonesian embassy
Many Malaysians are demanding Indonesia take action
The Malaysian government has lifted a state of emergency imposed after a smog that enveloped Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas began to clear.

Air pollution levels dropped below the levels that had triggered the emergency on Thursday, according to figures published by the government.

Schools have been closed during the crisis and asthma attacks have soared.

Anger is mounting against Indonesia, where land clearance fires have caused the smog that drifted over Malaysia.

Hundreds of schools and workplaces that had been closed during the emergency are now expected to re-open.

Annual problem

However, scientists believe that the respite may be temporary.

"It will definitely be back if the wind direction changes again," said Wong Teck Kiong of the Malaysian Meteorological Department.

The New Straits Times newspaper reported that up to seven people may have died from the effects of the haze.

Haze over a passenger jetty in Port Klang, near Kuala Lumpur
Schools and a port were closed because of the thick smog
In Kuala Lumpur, many people are demanding Indonesia take action to end what has become an annual problem.

Members of the opposition Democratic Action Party held a demonstration outside the Indonesian embassy on Friday demanding compensation.

The Malaysian media also criticised Indonesia.

"Enough is enough, Indonesia," screamed the headline of a commentary in the Star newspaper.

"Indonesia has to wake up to the fact that the forest fires have become a regional problem, full stop. Let's end this annual ritual once and for all with serious enforcement," the commentary said.

Shared blame

While criticism has been heaped on Indonesia for failing to stop practices which can lead to forest fires, many of the large firms in the area are actually owned by businessmen from Malaysia.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawisaid said he felt "wretched" that some of the fires may have been started by Malaysian companies with plantations in Sumatra.

He said the cabinet ministers would contact those firms identified by the Indonesian authorities to ensure that they did not use burning as a method of clearing land.

"They should have realised that what they did would have an impact here in Malaysia, their own country," he said.

A spokesman for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the Indonesian leader was taking the matter very seriously.

But hundreds of separate fires are still burning in Sumatra.

The remoteness of some areas and a lack of resources are hampering efforts to extinguish the fires.

Malaysia has offered to send reinforcements, but is reported to be waiting for Indonesia to give the go-ahead.

Critics say corruption, a lack of funds and poor law enforcement are to blame for many of the fires.

See the hazardous smog covering Malaysia

Malaysia haze: Your experiences
11 Aug 05 |  Have Your Say
Malaysia haze triggers emergency
11 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Malaysia haze: Eyewitness accounts
11 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Malaysia haze
10 Aug 05 |  In Pictures
Forest fires spread in Malaysia
25 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Sumatra forest fire haze spreads
23 Jun 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Malaysia
02 Jul 05 |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific