Friday, September 29

Firemen, Rela personnel battle to fight peat swamp fires


PREPARING FOR DUTY: Rela and firemen get ready to fight the peat swamp fire.

LAWAS: A team comprising 14 Fire and Rescue personnel and 20 Rela members are facing an uphill battle to fight the peat swamp fires in Lawas, particularly in Banting, which has been smouldering for the past week.

Several voluntary firefighters from Kuala Lawas also joined them in the battle.

The operation, under the supervision of district disaster relief and co-ordination committee chairman, Mohd Supaih Hamdan, has picked up pace with five additional water pumps and more manpower.

Students of SK Agama next to the hotspot were sent home yesterday due to the worsening air quality with many (students) complaining of breathing difficulty.

Efforts and logistic support has been doubled by the authorities following an instruction from Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan on Sunday that fire-fighting in critical areas such as Banting should be given top priority.

Thousands of students and residents here are affected by the thick smoke from the burning peat swamp, and fire department reported that lack of water sources nearby had been hampering the fire-fighting operation.

HARD AT WORK: Firemen are seen at work dousing the fire in poor visibility and hot condition.

Awang Tengah called for water tankers and excavators to be deployed to the area to overcome the problem. Excavators are needed to create fire breaks and source of water in the affected areas.

Mohd Supaih, meanwhile, thanked all those involved for their valiant effort and sacrifice in trying to douse the peat swamp fires which spread rapidly under the tinderbox-dry condition and strong winds.

Fires in Merapok, Sundar and Kuala Lawas have also been reported.

Despite the constraints in shortage of water, manpower and equipment, the local team has worked closely together to face the challenges.

Among those who went to the ground were divisional engineer Norman Jan, Lawas District Council secretary Zulkifli Sahari and district Rela chief James Amar.