KUCHING, Aug 16 (Bernama) -- Firefighters will be stationed at the Miri Port Authority's surveillance tower to spot potential fire-hazard areas within a 10-km radius in efforts to tackle the haze, which shrouded the city, Monday.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said Tuesday the decision was made by the Sarawak Disaster and Relief Management Committee, which met to discuss the current haze situation in the state following the re-activation of its machinery.
"We will discuss with the port authority to utilise the tower, in cooperation with the Fire and Rescue Department and other relevant agencies to monitor the fire-proned areas," he told Bernama after chairing the committee meeting at his office in Wisma Bapa Malaysia, Petra Jaya here.
He said the move would enable the personnel manning the tower to alert the department upon spotting any open burning activities so that firefighters could be despatched to the affected area immediately.
At present, about 200 firefighters are on stand-by in Miri, including the two most affected areas - Kuala Baram and Tudan - due to the presence of dry peat soil, which had caused subterranean fires.
As such, he said the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) had been directed to raise the water table in certain areas while cloud seeding operation would also be considered if the situation worsens.
He said as of 11 am, the Air Pollutant Index (API) in Miri had improved to a moderate level of 75 from the unhealthy level of 116 yesterday because of scattered rain last night.
Elsewhere in the state, the API readings were described as good and moderate at 54 in Kuching, Sibu (59), Bintulu (61), Sarikei (58), Limbang (40), Samarahan (49), Sri Aman (45), Kapit (60) and Petra Jaya (41).
The visibility in Miri has also improved from three kilometres at 8 am yesterday to over 10 kilometres this morning while Kuching and Bintulu recorded visibility of eight kilometres.
He said as of today, the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environmental Board (NREB) recorded 13 hotspots in Sarawak, 11 in the Peninsular, 20 in Kalimantan, 343 in Sumatra and none in Sabah.
In advising farmers and plantation companies to adopt zero-burning technique so as not to aggravate the haze, he said they should practice the environmental-friendly mulching method to turn the vegetation into natural fertilisers.
So far the NREB had identified a few open burning cases, including in Daro and Similajau, which were still under investigation, he said.
He said the Medical Department, which had also been put on stand-by, had not reported any increase in respiratory ailments in its various government hospitals as the air quality was still healthy to moderate.
The state government would distribute face masks to members of the public should the air quality, caused by haze-related factors, deteriorate, he said.
Meanwhile the Fire and Rescue Department advised members of the public to contact their Haze Operations Rooms in Kuching (082-369194), Miri (085-422973) or Penolong Penguasa Zon Miri, Awang Farbu (013-8481472), Sibu (084-330343) and Bintulu (086-332222).