Friday, 14 August 2009

Firefighters still battling fires in Sarawak

Published: Friday August 14, 2009 MYT


KUCHING: Firefighters are still battling to put out fires covering a total of 3, 865ha in Sarawak which have led to hazy conditions in the state.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Kong Cho Ha said some 697 firefighters were working around the clock to put out the fires in Kuching, Sibu, Miri and Bintulu divisions.

“They have already managed to put out fires covering 2,740ha while the remaining 3,865ha are still burning,” he said in a statement Friday.

Miri division had the largest area of fires still to be put out at 2,057ha, followed by Sibu with 1,858ha.

Kuching and Bintulu had 10ha and 2ha of fires, respectively, yet to be doused.

According to Kong, the fires were believed to have been started by farmers and oil palm plantations.

“The fire then spreads and becomes difficult to control before the Fire and Rescue Services are informed.

“The problem is compounded by the fact that most of the fires are on peat soil and are in scattered locations away from road access,” he said.

He added that the state Fire and Rescue Services Department had directed its fire stations to switch to a 24-hour shift to speed up the firefighting process.

The department had also frozen the leave of its personnel during this time, he said.

In addition, the firefighting efforts in Miri were being assisted by personnel from the police, army, General Operations Force, Petronas, Civil Defence Department, Miri Resident’s Office, Land and Survey Office, Health Office, Natural Resources and Environment Board and Shin Yang.