Indonesian forests still burning, and Malaysia and Singapore are choking on the fumes

Kuala Lumpur skyline shrouded in fumes yesterday, Sept.11, 2019

Malaysian authorities distributed half a million face masks to residents on Tuesday after large-scale forest fires in Indonesia spread smoke and thick smog to neighboring countries.

Intense forest fires have raged across the Indonesian regions of Sumatra and Kalimantan in recent weeks. More than 930,000 hectares (about 2.3 million acres) of land have been burned, hundreds of residents evacuated, and more than 9,000 personnel have been deployed to battle the flames, according to CNN Indonesia.

 Nearby, Singapore and Malaysia have both choked in a dense haze all week, with air quality reaching unhealthy levels.

The fires were allegedly caused by farmers using slash and burn techniques to clear the ecologically rich land — the same practice that led to uncontrollable fires in the Brazilian Amazon this summer.

On Tuesday Malaysia’s National Disaster Management Agency distributed half a million face masks to Sarawak state, which saw a spike in the air pollution index (API), according to state media agency Bernama. 409 schools in the state closed Tuesday before reopening today, Bernama reported.

API measures a variety of pollutants to gauge air quality, which is typically defined by the concentration of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, per cubic meter. The microscopic particles are considered particularly harmful because they are small enough to lodge deep into the lungs and can pass into other organs or the bloodstream.

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By: Jesse Yeung, CNN