Taken from here, news report as at noon today.
KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysia declared a state of emergency Thursday as the air pollution index soared to extremely hazardous levels on the west coast, which has been worst-hit by smoke from fires in Sumatra, an official said.
"We are now in a state of emergency," a National Security Council official told AFP after the environment department said the air pollution index had reached 529 in Port Klang and 531 in Kuala Selangor.
The government said Wednesday that levels above 500 would trigger a state of emergency.
"As the source of haze is in Sumatra, Malaysians are powerless to do anything to fight this threat to their and our children's health and safety unless Indonesia is serious about taking action," said DAP leader Lim Kit Siang.
Lim said that recent apologies from Indonesian leaders were meaningless unless they were followed up by concrete action to douse the fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and prevent them from recurring.
"Malaysians want an explanation why the Indonesian government cannot stop the haze from becoming a tragic annual event," he said.
But Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar indicated Malaysia would take a softly-softly approach, in order not to damage the fragile relationship with its neighbour.
"We cannot. In the interests of neighbourly relations, we must sit down and discuss and consult. This is the common interest," he said, adding that crisis talks between ministers from both sides would begin in Jakarta Friday.
"We have no other alternative, we cannot go into an open conflict, that will not be good for the region. That will not be good in terms of our relationship. So that is not the way that Malaysia will adopt," he said at a press conference.
Meteorology Department senior forecaster Kamil Ibrahim said the conditions were expected to persist for the next few days, but that there could be a brief respite next week as the winds coming from Sumatra shifted.
However, Indonesian officials warned that the blazes, caused by illegally using fire to clear land on Sumatra island and Kalimantan, would worsen in coming weeks.
"We're just wondering what's happening in terms of government to government arrangements," said 37-year-old businessman David Shan as he arrived in the city centre for a meeting.
"What our government is doing in terms of addressing the problems coming our of Sumatra - that's a big concern," he said. - AFP /ch