Thu, Oct 05, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Indonesian forest fires making life smoky in Borneo


Air quality deteriorated in two Malaysian states on Borneo Island where nine areas were shrouded in a smoky haze from fires in neighboring Indonesia, authorities reported yesterday.

Unhealthy air quality was reported in eight districts of Sarawak state and one town in neighboring Sabah state, the Department of Environment said on its Web site.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department said visibility yesterday morning was between 0.6km to 3km in Sabah and Sarawak, a drastic drop from the normal visibility of more than 10km.

Data from 13 of its 40 measuring stations in other parts of the country showed the visibility was below 5km.


A spokeswoman at the Sarawak General Hospital in central Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, declined to say whether respiratory complaints have gone up with the deteriorating air quality.

There was also no immediate word on whether air traffic has been affected by the dangerously low visibility.

An officer at the Meteorological Department said the smoky skies over Kuching and nearby towns of Samarahan and Sri Aman were due to fires in neighboring Indonesia's Kalimantan Province, which borders Sarawak.

"There were more than 424 hot spots in satellite images over Kalimantan," he said. "There are a few, very few, fire spots in Sarawak, but the bulk of the fires are in Kalimantan, near Sarawak."

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to speak to the media.

Authorities have said cloud seeding will be conducted to induce rains in the worst hit areas.

Haze from forest fires is an annual occurrence as farmers in Indonesia and sometimes Malaysia burn vegetation to clear land.

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