Malaysia: 'Klang haze not caused by Riau fires'

New Straits Times 2 Mar 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings recorded in Port Klang, Selangor, for the past two days is not linked to the haze caused by forest fires in Riau, Indonesia.

National Weather Forecast Centre director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said the haze could have been a result of a forest fire that occurred in the area, with the situation further aggravated by the dry spell.

At noon yesterday, the API in Port Klang recorded an unhealthy level of 103, which increased to 107 by 5pm. In Putrajaya, the API reading was 102 at 4pm but dropped to 94 an hour later. An API reading of between 100 and 200 is unhealthy, while a reading of between 51 to 100 is moderate.

Helmi said the haze in Riau was not likely to hit Malaysia, as the northeasterly winds was expected to push it away from the country.

"API readings in Port Klang, which is in the unhealthy category, is a result of the current dry spell. It was mostly caused by forest fires in parts of the Klang Valley."

Authorities in Riau declared a state emergency on Thursday due to raging forest fires that served to disrupt flights and marine navigation.

There was also a sharp rise in respiratory problems in the Indonesian province.

Malaysian Meteorological Department (JMM) director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail told Bernama on Wednesday that the haze in Malaysia was not connected to the recent eruption of Mount Sinabung in Sumatera, or other outside factors.

She said the hot and dry weather, coupled with the lack of rainfall for several days, has only made the situation worse.

"This time, the haze is caused by domestic sources. The lack of rainfall has also caused gas, dust, ash and particles to float in the atmosphere and not fall to the earth."

Penang bush fires doused by water bombing
Balvin Kaur New Straits Times 1 Mar 14;

GEORGE TOWN: THE dousing of bush fires on Penang Hill and Bukit Gambir, which broke out on Wednesday, have shown vast improvement.

While the bush fire at Bukit Gambir was doused on Thursday, only a small section of the bush fire on Penang Hill was raging yesterday.

State Fire and Rescue Department director Azmi Tamat said the department was confident of stamping out the remaining two hot spots on Penang Hill by today.

Four of the previous six hot spots -- three on Penang Hill and one on Bukit Gambir -- had been extinguished on Thursday.

The bid to douse the fire on Penang Hill began at 11am yesterday with an aerial water bombing exercise.

Azmi said an aircraft, from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, made 34 trips, water bombing the bush fire spots.

"We are certain to douse the remaining two hot spots on Penang Hill by tomorrow (today).

"Besides the water bombing exercise, we also have firefighters going to the ground and dousing flames with jet shooter water bags in the form of backpacks," he said at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens here yesterday.

Checks showed that the Botanical Gardens was closed to the public.

Azmi said the department had brought four portable water backpacks yesterday and filled them with water from the hill to facilitate efforts in putting out the fire.

"Even after we completely extinguish the bush fires, we will stand by at the site and monitor the hot spots to ensure there are no embers."

Azmi said the thick layer of dead leaves and branches on the ground hampered firefighting efforts.

"In fact, much of the smoke emanating from the hill was due to smouldering embers," he said, adding that the department would be going to the ground in Bukit Gambir to douse them.

Azmi said 40 firefighters had been working round-the-clock to contain the bush fires.

Runner: Using seawater to douse forest fires can harm the trees
royce tan The Star 2 Mar 14;

GEORGE TOWN: A nature lover has claimed that the seawater used to put out forest fires on Penang Hill and Bukit FRU can harm the trees.

Gurdial Singh said that while the water bombing of the forested hills using Bombardier planes was effective, the high salinity of seawater was harmful to hill trees.

“Unlike trees in mangrove swamps, trees on the hill are not accustomed to salty water,” the Penang Hash House veteran runner said yesterday.

Malaysian Nature Society (Penang branch) chairman D. Kandakumar, however, said the amount of salt in seawater was too small to kill the trees.

“There are not many choices of fresh water in Penang and the easiest to obtain is seawater.

“The most important thing is to put out the fires which are more damaging to the trees,” he said, adding that water bombing forest fires with seawater was a common practice everywhere.

Penang Fire and Rescue Depart­ment director Azmi Tamat declined to comment on the matter.

“We just want to put out the fires as soon as possible,” he said.

A Bombardier plane belonging to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency made at least 20 trips to get seawater off the coast at Gurney Drive here for the water bombing missions, dumping up to 6,000 litres at a time.

There had been several fires on Penang Hill, Bukit Gambier and Bukit FRU since last Tuesday. They have all been extinguished.

Fire and Rescue Department personnel and voluntary firefighters faced a tough time putting out the fires, in addition to trekking up steep trails to get to the sites.

With no source of water in the hills, they also had to use fire beaters. Where possible, they created portable dams to draw water from rivers and channel it to jet shooters.

The causes of the fires have yet to be determined but Azmi had earlier said that the hot and dry weather could be a factor.