Severe heatwave grips Malaysia

Intense spell of hot and dry weather brought on by El Nino hits food and water supplies across parts of SE Asia.

    The Pahang River runs dry and schools remain closed due to the heatwave in Temerloh, outside Kuala Lumpur [Mohd Rasfan /AFP]
    The Pahang River runs dry and schools remain closed due to the heatwave in Temerloh, outside Kuala Lumpur [Mohd Rasfan /AFP]

    Much of Southeast Asia continues to struggle with unusually hot and dry weather which has been brought on by the current El Nino.

    Food production has been badly affected and there have been chronic water shortages across the region.

    Temperatures in Malaysia soared above 37C on Monday, prompting more than 250 schools to close. The country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, rarely sees highs vary beyond 32C or 33C throughout the entire year.

    This led local authorities to order schools in the states of Perlis and Pahang to shut temporarily. The education ministry told the news agency Bernama that the decision was made to protect the health of around 100,000 pupils.

    Last month, the World Meteorological Organisation announced that temperatures in the first two months of 2016 had soared to new highs after a year that broke "all previous records by a wide margin".

    They warn that the "alarming" and "unprecedented" rate of climate change was "sending a powerful message to world leaders."

    The sweltering heat has slowed vegetable production. Paddy fields and rubber production have also been affected by the severe temperature rise.

    Many parts of Asia have been affected by the strong El Nino dry spell which has also hit agriculture in Thailand and the Philippines. Meanwhile Vietnam remains in the grip of its worst drought in a century.

    It is hoped that the worst is now over. April is usually the wettest month and according to Malaysia’s Meteorological Department’s director-general, Che Gayah Ismail, "the worst is over because the inter-monsoon season started last week and more rain is expected."

    Additional reporting by Al Jazeera's Everton Fox



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