Malaysia: Haze-related illnesses on the rise in four districts in Sabah

The Star 8 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: There is a rise in haze-related illnesses in four districts in Sabah, namely Beaufort, Kuala Penyu, Papar and Sipitang, said state Health Department director Dr Christina Rundi.

She said the increase was based on findings conducted by the relevant department in the affected districts monitoring haze-related illnesses.

Dr Christina said Beaufort recorded a rise in conjunctivitis, flu and asthma with 310 cases registered within three days of this week, compared with 346 cases throughout last week.

In Kuala Penyu, 61 similar cases were reported for three days this week compared with four last week.

"Data for Sipitang and Papar districts were newly reported this week but showed a high number of patients, especially for breathing and respiratory disease," she said in a statement here Friday.

Dr Christina said, based on the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading recorded by the Department of Environment from April 2 to 4, Beaufort showed unhealthy and very unhealthy air quality. The district has also recorded an hazardous API reading of 301 on April 4.

"However, the API improved overnight to moderate levels," she said.

Dr Christina also reminded the public to avoid exposure to the haze, reduce outdoor activities and take other measures to keep fit.

Individuals suffering from coughs, colds, asthma, eye pain, heart disease and chronic lung disease are urged to seek immediate medical care if the situation worsens.

The public is also reminded to use masks when outdoors, wash the face and skin exposed to the haze with clean water, use air-conditioning if in a vehicle and always drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

"If the haze continues at a dangerous level, people in the high risk category are advised to leave the area," she said. - Bernama

More aerial water bombings at peat swamp fires
The Star 9 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Firemen are intensifying their aerial water bombings at a major peat swamp fire at the Binsuluk Forest Reserve after attempts at cloud seeding failed to bring enough rainfall.

The underground fire has been raging since March 29, triggering severe unhealthy haze conditions earlier this week in the south western Beaufort district.

Over 100 firemen – some from neighbouring Labuan and Sarawak and with the aid of forestry personnel – have been fighting to put it out.

“The rains (from cloud seeding) was not enough to put it off. We will carry out more aerial water bombings at two hot spots at the centre of the forest as we cannot reach the area,” Sabah Fire and Rescue Services Department deputy director Khairul Azuwan Ibrahim said yesterday.

He said apart from aerial bombing, forestry personnel were cutting a route into the two hotspots for firemen to enter the area while volunteers were also cleaning drains to provide sources for water to douse the fires.

More than 200ha of the 12,000ha forest reserve area have been destroyed.

The Binsuluk peat swamp forest had lost nearly 8,000ha in the 1997 El Nino dry spell and there was only about 4,000ha left which foresters say have more or less been wiped out.

Meanwhile, Khairul said that another fire in Bongowan area was already put out late on Thursday and they were now focusing on the Binsuluk fires.

Asked how the firemen were coping with working around the clock, Khairul said: “The morale of our men is good; we don’t know how long it will take to put it out completely. It is our duty to the public.”

The haze situation in south western Beaufort which reached a very unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) of 300 late Sunday has imrproved with readings below 100 API over the last three days.

On Thursday, the Royal Malaysian Air Force carried out cloud seeding over Beaufort, Kuala Penyu, Membakut and Penampang, which saw about 30-minutes of rainfall in interior Sabah and Sipitang.

In Kota Kinabalu, the air quality saw an improvement yesterday with levels below 50 API.

Tambunan 'water bombed' to battle forest fires
KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 8 Apr 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Fire and Rescue Department is conducting a water bombing exercise to put out fires at hotspots in the Trusmadi forest reserve, Tambunan this afternoon.

Sabah Fire and Rescue Department assistant director (operations) Khairul Azuwan Ibrahim said the operation started at 2pm using the department's MI 171 helicopter.

"We did a reconnaissance at the hilly area earlier this morning. The blaze started there two days ago and is difficult to access via land.

"Water for the operation is sourced from the river near Sook, Keningau," he said when contacted, adding that the last water bombing operations were conducted at the Binsuluk forest reserve on March 27 and 28.

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