Malaysia: Haze in Sabah improves with fires under control

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 6 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The haze situation in Sabah has improved, as more fires are brought under control.

Schools that had been closed since Monday, will reopen today.

Worst hit Beaufort continues to see festering fires particularly from the nearly burned out 4,000ha peat swamp at Binsuluk Forest Reserve which was also spreading to neighbouring oil palm plantations in the district about 100km from here.

Nearly 10,000ha of different types of vegetation including oil palm plantations have been destroyed by fires spreading from the peat swamp area, Beaufort district officer Mohd Shaid Othman said.

He said the hour-long rainfall on Tuesday was not enough to put out big and small fires in the district, although the unhealthy conditions had improved slightly.

The Department of Environment mobile station in the Beaufort/Papar area showed the Air Pollutant Index (API) at a moderate level of 95 as of noon yesterday from its very unhealthy level of 298 three days ago.

Sabah Education Department deputy director Maimunah Suhaidul said a total of 83 primary and secondary schools with over 20,000 students in Beaufort, Kuala Penyu and Papar would reopen today.

Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the Binsuluk reserve had been more or less wiped out by fires.

About 8,000 ha of the 12,000 ha forest reserve had been wiped out by fires in the 1997 El Nino dry spell and the remaining area was wiped out by peat fires this time around.

The API in Kota Kinabalu and surrounding areas in the west coast remained moderate, though the air remained hazy, with the API hovering around 60.

Visibility in Kota Kinabalu was 2.5km yesterday, though flights were not disrupted.

The El Nino induced dry spell, which entered its third month, has seen continuing efforts to provide water to over 300 villages in 22 districts after gravity water feeds, wells and traditional water sources from streams dry up.

200ha of Binsuluk forest reserve still burning - Wan Junaidi
BERNAMA New Straits Times 6 Apr 16;

PUTRAJAYA: A 200ha jungle area in the Binsuluk Forest Reserve in Beaufort, Sabah is still burning, says Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said a 20ha area outside the Klias Forest Reserve in Beaufort was also reported to be still burning.

About 80 per cent of the fires in the Kimanis/Bongawan and Jalan Membakut/Bongawan forest areas, covering 300ha and 200ha, respectively, had been doused, he said.

“The fire which destroyed 50ha of jungle at the Padas Damit Forest Reserve has also been totally put out,” he said in a statement today on the status of forest fires in Beaufort, Sabah.

Wan Junaidi said the fires were triggered by activities of farmers who carried out open burning which had spread to the forest reserves. -- Bernama

Schools in Papar, Beaufort & Kuala Penyu to finally reopen following improved air quality
OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 5 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: All schools in Papar, Beaufort and Kuala Penyu will reopen tomorrow following improved air quality in the districts.

Sabah Education deputy director Maimunah Suhaibul said the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings are currently at moderate level, with a reading of 95 as of this morning.

She said the latest reading are well below the 200 mark, which is the standard requiring schools to be closed.

"I have directed the district education officers to inform schools to operate as usual tomorrow.

"Based on a two-day weather observation (by the Department of Environment), the API reading is likely to be stable," she said in a statement.

Eighty three schools in the three districts were ordered to close for two days following unhealthy air quality.

The haze was caused by farmers' land-clearing activities, with fires spreading to 220 ha of forest reserves at the Beaufort district.

Fire and Rescue Department personnel took eight days to put out the fire.

Haze in south western Beaufort improves, schools set to reopen
MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 5 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The haze situation in south western Beaufort area improved further Tuesday and schools are set to reopen Wednesday.

Sabah Education Department deputy director Maimunah Suhaidul said that schools, which were closed for the last two days, would be reopened after the Air Pollutant Index dropped to a healthier 95 level from the "very unhealthy" level of 300 three days ago.

"The situation has improved and all schools which were ordered close in the affected area since Monday will open on Wednesday,’’ she said in brief statement.

A total of 83 primary and secondary schools with over 20,000 students in Beaufort, Kuala Penyu and Papar were closed for two days since Monday following severe unhealthy levels due to localised fires in the south western Beaufort area.

When contacted on Monday, Beaufort district officer Mohd Shaid Othman said that an hour of rain late Tuesday evening did not help to put out the fire in the Beaufort area.

"It was heavy but not enough to put out the big and small fires in our district. May be a good six hour rain will help,’’ he said, adding that some low lying areas in the town was hit by flash floods.

Shaid said they were inspecting various areas affected by the fires that has wiped out large tracts of farming land and also the Binusluk Forest Reserve where peat fires continue to simmer.

Kota Kinabalu air pollutant index reading was put at 66 at 11am Tuesday.

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