Malaysia: Firemen still battling bush and peat fires

New Straits Times 17 Mar 14;

KUANTAN: After weeks of no rain, the intermittent rainfall on Saturday helped to cool the state capital here.

However, it did little to dampen bush and peat fires.

Although the downpour helped extinguish flames in some parts of the state, fire and rescue personnel continued to battle the fires, with several hot spots identified along the East Coast Highway near Gambang and in Rompin.

A Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said the rainfall had reduced the fire activities.

But, he said, firemen were still stationed in several fire-prone forest areas to contain the situation.

He said the peat and bush fires along the Kuantan-Pekan stretch, which previously produced thick smoke that engulfed nearby areas, were not fully put out and fierce winds might fan the flames.

"The rain has brought some relief, as it has managed to control the fire and clear the haze.

"But, heavy rain lasting several hours would be the best solution to bring the bush fires to an end.

"Although the rain has helped to extinguish the fires on the ground, the ember could burn for a long period and creep through the underground layer, prompting continued bush and peat fires.

"Currently, there are still reports of fires at an oil palm plantation in Pekan, at Taman Nusa Puteri in Rompin and near the Gambang toll plaza."

He reminded motorists to drive carefully, as peat fire emissions could post a threat.

Rain refreshes Klang Valley
New Straits Times 17 Mar 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Visibility in the Klang Valley improved yesterday, thanks to timely showers.

However, some areas remained shrouded in haze.

At 9am yesterday, Petaling Jaya registered a visibility level of 400m, while the visibility in Subang and Sepang was at 700m. Visibility improved as the day progressed, with Petaling Jaya and Subang improving to 8km, and Sepang to more than 10km at 5pm, thanks to heavy rain.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) in Banting, which recorded an unhealthy level, saw an increase from 142 at 9am to 147 at 5pm. The API in Shah Alam also recorded a spike, from a moderate 71 earlier to unhealthy (104) at 12pm, before increasing to 110 at 5pm.

Port Klang, which was at an unhealthy level in the morning, improved gradually. Eleven areas nationwide recorded moderate API readings. Thirty-six other areas showed good readings.

Rain brings respite from heat and haze to Johor folk
The Star 17 Mar 14;

JOHOR BARU: Rain in most districts in the state brought relief to the people after the state experienced a prolonged hot spell and haze.

It began around 7am in the coastal east, in areas like Kota Tinggi and Mersing yesterday and moved west to Batu Pahat, Muar, Pontian and Johor Baru.

A spokesperson from the Meteorological Department said that the department also recorded isolated showers in Segamat and in some parts of Mersing during the wee hours yesterday.

“We predict that there will be wet days ahead,” she said, adding that the wet weather was expected to last until tomorrow.

State Health and Environment executive councillor Datuk Ayub Rahmat said that the brief downpour helped reduce air pollutant particles that contributed to the haze in Muar.

“The few hours of rain had lessened the haze,” he said, adding that the state was expected to see rainy days ahead as the monsoon season was approaching.

Ayub said that the monsoon usually started early March, but due to changes in wind directions from the north, the wet season would only start somewhere around the third week of this month.

On its website, the Department of Environ-ment said Banting in Selangor recorded unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) reading yesterday morning.

The API reading in Shah Alam rose from moderate to unhealthy at 107 by 2pm.

Meanwhile, 10 areas recorded moderate API, namely Muar (51), Bukit Rambai (54), Nilai (55), Port Dickson (59), Balok Baru, Kuantan (65), Kangar (51), Kuala Selangor (59), Pelabuhan Klang (98), Petaling Jaya (96), and Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur (63). Another 38 areas recorded good API reading.

API readings of between 0 to 50 are categorised as good, moderate (51-100), unhealthy (101-200), very unhealthy (201-300) and hazardous (more than 301).