Sumatran fires a concern
The country was yesterday shrouded with haze from forest fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra causing “unhealthy” levels of pollution in six areas. Haze is an annual problem during the monsoon season from May to September as winds blow the smoke across the Malacca Strait. Environment Department Director General Halimah Hassan said they had detected 46 hotspots in Sumatra via satellite. The Air Pollutant Index showed unhealthy levels of between 101 and 129 in six areas yesterday morning, including two places in Malacca State along with Port Dickson and the country’s largest port, Port Klang. In Kuala Lumpur, the skies were hazy with air pollution readings at 92, just below the unhealthy threshold. Halimah in a statement yesterday attributed the haze to the westerly monsoon season. Haze, mostly caused by fires in Indonesia, builds up during the dry season, affecting tourism and contributing to health problems across the region.
Dutch couple go missing
A Dutch couple living in the country have disappeared, police said on Saturday, with press reports saying they had been kidnapped. Press reports said the couple, who have not been named, had not been seen for three days, had been abducted. Daily al-Yemen al-Youm reported that “unknown men kidnapped” the couple, without giving details. Western sources said the pair were teaching at the Lebanese International University in Sana’a, and that the wife was also a journalist working for a radio station in the Netherlands. Another source close to the couple spoke of last seeing the woman three days ago, and saying they had probably been kidnapped.
Passengers still missing
Navy divers battled strong ocean currents yesterday in a desperate hunt for seven missing passengers of a ferry that sank with dozens onboard. The Lady of Mount Carmel mysteriously went down in calm weather on Friday about 2km from Burias Island, killing two women passengers. Officials said 61 of the 70 people aboard the vessel had been rescued. Hopes of finding the missing passengers were fading fast as strong currents thwarted attempts by the navy divers to reach the seabed, navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gerald Fabic told reporters. He said there was a slim chance that the seven missing had drifted away to nearby islands. However, he added there was also a probability that they were trapped inside the sunken vessel. Fabic said navy and coastguard vessels would continue searching with the help of local fishermen until ordered to terminate the search.
Mandela improving: family
Former president Nelson Mandela’s health has improved, his grandson said on Saturday as the 94-year-old spent his eighth day in hospital recovering from a lung infection. Mandla Mandela said that when he left his grandfather in Pretoria, before heading to Qunu for a family memorial, “we saw the improvement in his health.” “The old man is not only ours, but he is for the people of South Africa, Africa and the whole world,” he said at the funeral of elderly cousin, Florence Nondlela Mandela, in the former president’s home village in Eastern Cape. Saturday’s update was the first since Thursday, when President Jacob Zuma said that Mandela was continuing to improve but remains in serious condition.