The air pollution measuring 746 reached the highest level because of the smog emanating from neighbouring Indonesia.

Malaysia on Sunday declared emergency in two southern districts choked by smog blamed on forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia, as air pollution levels reached highest level in 16 years.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak declared emergency in Muar and Ledang with immediate effect after the smoky haze moved from Singapore.

The Malaysian government’s index for air pollution reached a measurement of 746 on Sunday in the southern district of Muar, the Department of Environment website said. It was far above the threshold of 300 for hazardous air quality.

Schools to be closed

Environment Minister G. Palanivel said that the National Security Council (NSC) would issue instructions for residents to remain indoors and closure of schools.

Meanwhile, the state-run Bernama news agency reported two cities in Malacca also were in hazardous territory. Hundreds of schools have been closed since Thursday in Muar, which has a population of about 250,000.

Singapore and Indonesia have lashed out at each other in recent days after the smog hit “critical” levels which the island-state said was potentially life-threatening to its ill and elderly.

The highest Air Pollutant Index (API) ever recorded in Malaysia was in Sarawak in 1997 with a reading of 860. The haze hit its worst levels during that crisis, costing Southeast Asia an estimated $9 billion from disruptions to air travel and other business activities.