The Malaysian government declared a state of emergency in the island state of Sarawak September 19, shutting down all schools, offices, businesses, factories, and farms. They have recommended that 1.9 million residents remain in their homes, especially those with respiratory difficulties. The heavy black haze, reportedly caused by uncontrolled forest and shrub fires in the neighboring country of Indonesia, has sent thousands to the hospital with respiratory and optical problems and threatens to affect as many as 20 million people in Sumatra, Borneo, Java, and Sulawesi.
Some 100 protesters demonstrated in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur September 21, saying the government had done too little about the environmental disaster. The day before, the government ordered Malaysian companies involved in open burning in Indonesia - which is illegal - to help the government there pay for fire-fighting expenses.