Number of hotspots in Sumatra, Kalimantan shoots up

Efforts are going on to put out forest fires contributing to the haze. (Bernama pic)

PUTRAJAYA: The ongoing forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia, are still contributing to the transboundary haze and hike in air pollutant index (API) in all areas of the peninsula, Sarawak and western Sabah, according to the Department of Environment (DoE) today.

Yesterday, the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 20 (NOAA-20) image satellite had detected an increase in hotspots with 777 in Sumatra and 363 in Kalimantan, the DoE said in its air quality and haze status report.

“The haze from Sumatra has affected almost the entire peninsula. Clusters of hotspots in western, central and southern Kalimantan have continued to contribute to the haze impacting Sarawak.”

Nine hotspots were detected in the country with three in Selangor and two each in Johor, Terengganu and Sarawak.

Some hotspots could not be captured in the satellite image due to thick clouds and not everything could be tracked by the satellite.

“The DoE has increased enforcement actions and daily patrol activities at areas where open burning are rampant while constantly monitoring the API readings,” it added.

Overall air quality in the country was still affected by the transboundary haze as unhealthy API readings were recorded at 39 stations, as at 11am today.

None of the stations recorded good air quality while 28 stations recorded moderate air quality, the statement added.

Among the 39 stations which recorded unhealthy air quality level were Sungai Petani, Kedah (110); Balik Pulau, Penang (160); Tasek Ipoh, Perak (178); Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur (169), Putrajaya (134) and Kuala Selangor (152).

The DoE also called on members of the public to refrain from outdoor activities, especially when the API reading exceeds 150.

An API of between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; 51 and 100, moderate; 101 and 200, unhealthy; 201 and 300, very unhealthy and 300 and above, hazardous.

‘Water-bombing’ helps control peat fires in Seri Aman

Meanwhile, the API reading which hit the hazardous level in Sri Aman, Sarawak, on Saturday, dropped to the unhealthy level at 195 this morning.

“Firefighters are still battling the blaze at Kampung STC, Jalan Tisak Betong and Jalan Ketajau in Sri Aman while cloud-seeding operations are being conducted to reduce the haze and API in the areas,” said the statement.

The operation to fight forest and peatland fires in Sri Aman entered its seventh day today.

It was boosted through the successful “water bombing” by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency’s (MMEA) Bombardier CL-415 aircraft.

The plane had been deployed on Sept 18 and 21 to carry out similar operations, but the attempts failed due to technical difficulties with the aircraft as well as lack of water resources.

In today’s operation, the aircraft, which began operations at 8.15am, conducted 10 sorties over four hours, spraying a total of 60,000 litres of water to bring the fire under control.

The fire-fighting operation, spanning 54ha of forest land, also saw the fire department using their MI-171 helicopters to douse the fire, with the help of 30 firemen, aided by personnel from other agencies such as the Malaysian Armed Forces and MMEA.

The API readings in Sri Aman rose from 183 at 8am to 204 as of 1pm.

The operation to douse peat fires covering 246ha in Sri Aman is about 95% complete, a state disaster management committee spokesman later said.

He said the fire was almost completely under control and only a small portion of the land remained burning.

Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department operations assistant director Tiong Ling Hii said as of 3pm, peat fires were still active over 8ha.