Malaysia ready to give Indonesia a helping hand

KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/ANN) - Malaysia is all ready to help Indonesia put out its raging fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra in order to ease the severe haze in the region, said Energy, Science, Technology, Environment, and Climate Change (Mestecc) Minister Yeo Bee Yin.

“The urgency now is for Indonesia to extinguish the fires and the government is ready to offer any kinds of assistance to help Indonesia in both Kalimantan and Sumatra, ” she said in a Facebook post yesterday, adding that Malaysia will exhaust all diplomatic channels to get Indonesia to act.“We will be sending diplomatic notes to Indonesia to underscore the seriousness of haze, as well as to emphasise the urgency in putting out the fires, ” Yeo said.

She said Mestecc is working with the Foreign Ministry on the matter following a scheduled meeting between the Malaysian ambassador and his counterpart yesterday.

Yeo said the National Disaster Management Agency is coordinating with the Meteorological Services Department (MetMalaysia) and the Royal Malaysian Air Force to conduct cloud-seeding in hard-hit areas with sufficient clouds.
“However, the fires in Indonesia need to be put out to solve the root of the haze problem; otherwise the haze will come back after the rain, ” she added.

MetMalaysia director-general Jailan Simon said the haze situation in Sarawak has been easing, except in Kuching, Sri Aman and Samarahan.

He said the improvement in the central and northern regions of Sarawak was due to early morning showers, which also helped reduce the number of hotspots in southern Kalimantan.

“The haze in the western part of Sarawak is expected to continue as long as the fires in Kalimantan are ongoing, ” he said.

Jailan added that 194 hotspots were detected in southern Kalimantan, compared to 446 before, but there has been an increase in the hotspots in Sumatra, from 52 to 206 currently.

Bernama reported that the earliest possible date for cloud seeding in Sarawak is on Thursday, with Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas quoted as saying it mainly depends on the weather.

“Looking at the wind direction and the forecast, Thursday is the earliest. It depends whether clouds cover the affected areas, ” he told reporters at a celebration in conjunction with the official birthday of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in Serian yesterday.

Uggah also said Sarawak had appealed to the government to discuss with Indonesia on ways to reduce the hotspots.

The Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination will proceed in Sarawak as scheduled today, unless the air pollutant index (API) goes above 300.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is good; 51 to 100 moderate; 101 to 200 unhealthy; 201 to 300 very unhealthy; and 301 and above is deemed hazardous.

State education director Dr Azhar Ahmad said the department had distributed 69,000 face masks to 713 schools in Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman, Betong, Sarikei and Mukah.

“We focus on UPSR candidates in areas where the API is close to or above 200.

“Students will still sit for examinations as long as the API does not exceed 300. Beyond that, the Education Ministry will decide, ” he said yesterday.

Azhar added that all district education offices have been reminded to comply with the standard operating procedures, which state that schools in areas where the API is above 200 should be closed.

“The principal or headmaster is empowered to close their schools, based on the 6pm API reading, ” he said.

Jailan said that in the peninsula, moderate haze is expected to continue, particularly in the central west coast following the increase of hotspots in central Sumatra and the westerly monsoon blowing from that direction.

Areas with unhealthy air yesterday include Johan Setia, Klang (150), Cheras (107), Nilai (107), Putrajaya (103) and Kpg Batu Muda (101).

Down south, the haze has hit several parts of Johor with some districts hitting moderate API levels.

Segamat recorded an API level from 85 to 87, Batu Pahat from 81 to 85, Kluang from 78 to 80, Larkin from 78 to 81, Pasir Gudang from 73 to 76, Pengerang and Pasir Gudang both recorded an increase from 66 to 68, while Tangkak from 93 to 97.

Bernama also reported that all mosques across the country have been called to hold solat istisqa (prayers for rain) to ease the haze.

Director-general of Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) Datuk Mohamad Nordin Ibrahim said Jakim is asking for help from all quarters.

“Jakim is seeking cooperation from all state Islamic religious departments to ask all mosques under their purview to hold solat istisqa, ” he said in a statement yesterday.

Mohamad Nordin said three mosques under Jakim, namely the National Mosque, Putra Mosque and the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque in Putrajaya, will be taking part in the move, which was recommended by the National Disaster Management Agency.

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