API rises in worst hit area

BATTLING BUSHFIRE: Fire and Rescue personnel trying to contain a raging bushfire.

MIRI: The API at Permyjaya here remained the highest in the nation rising to 176 at 7am yesterday from Wednesday’s reading of 164.

However, the thick haze did not envelope the whole city as it breached the unhealthy level only in the vicinity of a 10 hectare peat soil site which has been burning for the last few days.

State DOE director Ismail Ithnin said the API in other areas, including Miri city itself, was only slightly above 50.

“Permyjaya recorded the highest API because of the peat soil fire. The API reader is also located very near to the burning area,” he told reporters when he visited the burning site yesterday.

Two automatic stations have been set up in the city, one at Institute Latihan Perindustrian in Permyjaya and another in Piasau.

Its primary function is to automatically send air quality report to the DOE every four hours.

Ismail urged Bomba to give Permyjaya their priority attention as the area on fire was huge and also very near to SK Chung Hua Tudan and Hamidah Welfare Complex, an orphanage.

He added that check dams and tube wells had been activated with the help of Naim Lands Sdn Bhd to put out the fire and to flood the area.

“We are also trying to get land owners to help us put out the fire, but we are still unsure who own the piece of land. At the moment, Naim has despatched its team to the site and they are pumping water from the check dams,” he said.

He added that there were 16 check dams in Kuala Baram and Permyjaya areas.

Each unit was constructed at a cost of between RM5,000 and RM10,000.

Its function is to accumulate water which is then used to flood the peat soil to douse the fire and prevent it from smouldering.

Ismail said his department had also distributed over 800 face masks to the affected schools following the high API reading.

Political secretary to the Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Datuk Sebastian Ting, who visited the burning site yesterday, also urged Bomba to focus on Permyjaya.

“A population of 100,000 people from Senadin, Tudan and Permyjaya areas are affected by this haze, and we worry about their health.”

Meanwhile, Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment, speaking in Kuching pledged that the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) would continue monitoring open burning activities statewide.

He said the board had temporarily revoked all open-burning permits to the private sector as a measure to maintain healthy air.

As of Thursday, 226 hotspots were detected in Sumatra while 88 hotspots in Borneo.

Of the 88, 40 hotspots were observed in Sarawak.

“The private sector has been asked to do something,” he said when asked what the authorities would do to address the identified hotspots in the state.

Statistics of Department of Environment (DOE) showed the API readings were moderate as of 11am in major towns in the state yesterday.

Bintulu recorded the second highest API in Sarawak, at 73 followed by Kuching and Sibu (both registered at 68), Samarahan (67), Sarikei (65), Kapit (63), Sri Aman (60) and Limbang (52).

A total of 74 hotspots were found in Borneo as of noon yesterday of which 28 were in Sarawak and Sabah, as shown by satellite image.

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