Cloud-seeding begins in Sarawak to ease hazy conditions

Royal Malaysian Air Force personnel preparing to load a special tank of salt solutions into a Hercules C-130 aircraft during the cloud-seeding operations carried out from the Kuching RMAF air base today. (Bernama pic)

KUCHING: Cloud-seeding operations will be carried out in several areas in Sarawak today with the help of a Charlie 130 Hercules belonging to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah Embas said the three-day operation would be conducted in Kuching, Kota Samarahan, Serian, Sri Aman, Betong, Saratok, Sarikei, Kanowit, Sibu, Mukah, Sematan and Bau.

“For today, the operation will be conducted from Kuching, Kota Samarahan and Sri Aman and will cover as many areas as possible.

“The operation needs to find suitable clouds to create rain,” he said after observing the preparations for the cloud-seeding operation at Kuching RMAF air base here today.

Uggah proposed the setting up of more surveillance stations in the state in order to get more accurate air pollutant index (API) readings.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Branch Meteorological Department deputy director Siniarovina Urban Sinyaw said large clouds were expected to form in the afternoon.

He said cloud-seeding would be conducted from a height of 1,370- 2,130 metres.

Meanwhile, the army said today it is ready to help extinguish the peat soil and undergrowth fires in Sri Aman in Sarawak that are partly the reason for the air quality to reach a “hazardous” API reading of 412 today.

Eastern Field Command commander Wira Zamrose Mohd Zain said the army is just waiting for the go-ahead to mobilise its personnel.

“This will come under the special duties of the Malaysian Armed Forces. When it comes to natural disasters, the coordination is carried out by the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma),” he said.

Fires over a 200ha area were reported in Sri Aman, Nadma said.

According to the Fire and Rescue Department, 80ha of the razed areas in Sri Aman have yet to be extinguished.

Work on building firebreaks using five excavators and Bombardier aircraft from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) will start tomorrow.

Fire-fighting efforts are affected by the lack of water sources nearby.

Fire department helicopters have not been given clearance by the control tower to assist as visibility is very limited.

Nadma said the API reading spiked as the sensor was located at a stadium just 3km from the area on fire.

According to a Department of Environment report at 11am, three other areas in Sarawak with “very unhealthy” API readings are Kuching (244), Sarikei (225) and Samarahan (218).

On the haze situation elsewhere, Nadma said cloud-seeding operations were conducted yesterday in Selangor, Perak and Penang. These succeeded in inducing rain, especially in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia.

Nadma has distributed 2.1 million face masks, 500,000 in Sarawak and 1.6 million in the peninsula.

According to Nadma, using the N95 face mask is most effective in the current haze condition.

A total of 2,696 schools nationwide were closed today involving 1.7 million students.

In Sarawak, the total number of schools closed is 1,037, with the rest in Selangor (939), Penang (399), Kuala Lumpur (296) and Putrajaya (25).