Sarawak girds for possible transboundary haze

Hotspots around Malaysia are shown on this map from the Asean meteorological centre

MIRI: Sarawak will start preparing for a possible transboundary haze episode that is expected to hit certain towns due to the ongoing forest fires in a neighbouring country.

The warning came as bush fires from open burning were reported in Miri, with the latest blaze threatening 150 hectares of forest in Kuala Baram today.

Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah Embas said the State Disaster Management Committee will meet next week to discuss haze-related problems as well as necessary precautionary measures to be taken.

“In the meeting we will have the latest updates on the haze situation and at the same time I have instructed relevant agencies to be ready,” he told reporters after presenting a RM1 million cheque to the Miri Indian Association president Karambir Singh here today. Uggah said the money was for the construction of the Indian Multi-Faith Community Centre here, to be completed by the middle of next year.

Uggah, who is also chairman of the State Disaster Management Committee said with the ongoing hot and dry season in Sarawak, all agencies must be on full alert for possible causes that could contribute to the haze problem.

On Aug 2, Meteorological Department Director General Jailan Simon was quoted by Bernama as saying that the west coast of Peninsula and western Sarawak has begun to experience the haze due to forest fires in six provinces in Indonesia.

Jailan said the haze will have an effect on the weather in Penang, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Negeri Sembilan and Putrajaya in Peninsula while in Sarawak it is expected to hit Kuching, Serian and Samarahan.

In a related development, Miri Fire and Rescue chief Law Poh Kiong said bush fires from open burning are being reported here again, with the latest blaze threatening 150 hectares of forest in Kuala Baram today.

Efforts to put it out began at 9am today but had to be stopped at 4pm, and will resume tomorrow, he said.

Bush fires, normally triggered by peat soil fires, is a common hazard in Miri, and in 2016 was the cause of a major haze episode that blanketed the city.