KUALA LUMPUR – 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 on 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.
Singapore initially bore the brunt of Southeast Asia's worst smog crisis for years with pollution reaching record levels last week. Favourable winds have since cleared the air over the city state but southern Malaysia remains choked by smoke.
Pollution spiked to hazardous levels in some parts of the country in recent days, with southern Malaysia seeing its worst air quality in 16 years last weekend. The smog has eased but continued to hang over some areas including the capital Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
The situation has also forced newly-promoted English Premier League side Cardiff City to cancel a Malaysia visit that was set to begin this week.
The club said in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday that it has abandoned the scheduled week-long trip to Malaysia – home of its billionaire owner Vincent Tan – "due to the current poor air quality in the region."
"It has been decided for the welfare of all concerned to delay the trip," Tan said in the statement.
Several team representatives including manager Malky Mackay and forward Craig Bellamy were to leave for Malaysia on Thursday for a visit intended to promote the club to the country's football fans.
The air pollution has also forced the cancellation of other sporting events in Malaysia including a marathon in Kuala Lumpur and a national-level competition for disabled athletes.
Haze is an annual problem during drier summer months, when westerly monsoon winds blow smoke from forest fires and slash-and-burn land-clearing on the huge Indonesian island of Sumatra, which lies across the Malacca Strait.
But this summer's recurrence has been the worst in years.
Malaysia's environment minister travelled to Indonesia Wednesday morning to meet his counterpart in the hopes of resolving the problem, which earlier sparked a testy exchange between Indonesia and Singapore.
In 1997-1998, a severe bout of haze cost Southeast Asia an estimated $9 billion from disruptions to air travel and other business activities. AFP