Malaysia: We are generating our own haze, says Met Dept

The Star 26 Feb 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The causes of the current haze in Malaysia have been identified to be domestic sources such as forest burning, smoke from factories, vehicle emissions and open burning.

Malaysian Meteorological Department (JMM) director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail said the haze had no connection with the recent eruption of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatera, Indonesia or other outside factors.

She said the hot and dry weather without any rainfall for several days experienced in the country only made the situation worse.

"This time, the haze is caused by domestic sources and the lack of rainfall has caused such things as gas, dust, ash and particles to float in the atmosphere and not fall down to the earth," she told Bernama.

The Department's records showed that the haze was now concentrated in large urban areas with economic and industrial activities as well as a large number of vehicles such as Kuala Lumpur, Selangor (Subang) and Penang (Seberang Perai).

Che Gayah said the temperature this year was high compared to the same period last year, due to the hot and dry weather, and this was expected to continue until the middle of March.

"The haze is still within control, but early measures to prevent it from getting worse should be taken, including avoiding open burning and reduced use of private vehicles on roads," she said.

The Air Pollution Index recorded by the Department of Environment at noon Wednesday showed that the air quality status in 23 areas was good, and average in 26 others. - Bernama

Over 7,000 bush, peat fire calls since Feb 1
Kalavaani Karupiah and Tasnim Lokman New Straits Times 26 Feb 14;

HIGH VOLUME: Fire and Rescue Department head says 300 calls received per day in Selangor, Johor, Kelantan and Perak

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Fire and Rescue Department has received more than 7,000 calls involving bush and peat fires from Feb 1 to date due to the dry spell.

Its director general, Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim, said the calls increased fivefold in the period compared with the same period last year.

"We receive an estimated 300 calls per day on fire. Most of the calls involved locations in the states of Selangor, Johor, Kelantan and Perak," he said after officiating the 2014 Fire and Safety Seminar yesterday.

He said the department's personnel were on standby in case the situation worsened during the current dry spell.

Wan Mohd said the department would continue to keep a close watch, particularly on locations nationwide that were considered as hot spots.

Meanwhile, the Department of Environment said they were currently pumping water from tube wells to be used to extinguish the fires.

Its director-general, Datuk Halimah Hassan, said water levels nationwide were low and insufficient to douse bush fires.

"Officers were told to pump out water from tube wells in fire-prone areas to be used in case of a bush fire. This is being carried out nationwide to ensure water usage and fires are controlled."

In George Town, a bush fire at Bukit Relau on Monday night caused panic among hundreds of residents living at the foot of the hill.

During the 9pm incident residents, particularly those from Jalan Yeap Chor Ee and Bukit Gambir, were horrified as they watched the blaze from their homes.

The blaze, which took place in a 0.4ha area of shrubs and bushes, took 30 Fire and Rescue Department personnel more than half an hour to bring under control.

Jalan Perak Fire and Rescue Department operations chief Kamaruzi Mohd Nor said it was tough fighting the fire in the dark.

"We had to chop down the shrubbery with parang to reach certain recesses where embers of the fire were spotted."

Kamaruzi said the cause of the fire was unknown, but attributed it to the drought as the underlying factor.

He said a similar fire had broken out in the area about five years ago. Additional reporting by Phuah Ken Lin