Since smog from Indonesia's sprawling forest fires chokes neighboring Malaysia, authorities there have distributed a pair of million face masks to students in affected areas, state news agency Bernama reported Thursday.
Over 500,000 masks were sent to students in Sarawak in East Malaysia, where air quality on Thursday peaked at 273 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic meter of air, deemed "very unhealthy," through the Air pollutant Index of Malaysia.
Forest fires in neighboring Kalimantan, Indonesia, caused the huge decline in air quality, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail told state media.
"We cannot control the source. That is why the government is preparing several measures to tackle it," she said.
Indonesia's National Board for Disaster Management stated that combined with blazes in Sumatra, at least 800,000 acres of land in Indonesia had burned that year.
The Malaysian leader said the country stood prepared to assist Indonesia to tackle the issue, Bernama reported.
Additionally, Singapore issued a health advisory last week because of heightened air pollution from the blazes in Indonesia, warning residents to stay indoors.
Indonesian forest fire season is in full swing
The blazes in Indonesia occur annually. Paper and palm oil plantations farm their crops in the wealthy peatlands of the Sumatran coast and the island of Borneo.
Every year, the farmland is dried out and burned to arrange for the next year's crop and to clear forests. Peat, dry and rich in carbon, can burn for weeks. At its peak, air pollution in Indonesia has reached levels as high as 1,000.
Earlier this week, Indonesia's National Police declared 185 individuals had been arrested for their role in the expansive fires. Through a spokesperson, nearly 100% of the fires "occurred because of human factors,".
Those found guilty of setting the fires can be fined up to 10 billion rupiahs, or $700,000, and managers of corporations setting them might face up to 10 years in jail. However, identifying suspects has proven difficult, and the fires have continued.
The article is based on CNN news.