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Title: Fire-fighters to be sent to Sumatra
Date: 11-Aug-2005
Category: Malaysia
Source/Author: New Straits Times (Malaysia)

Malaysia is rushing fire-fighters to Sumatra after haze from forest fires there drove pollution levels way past the hazardous mark in Port Klang and Kuala Selangor.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi declared a state of emergency after the Air Pollutant Index (API) reached 529 in Port Klang and 531 in Kuala Selangor — the first time the 500-level has been breached in peninsular Malaysia.

This means that government and private offices, schools and factories in both areas will be closed indefinitely.

Abdullah was speaking to reporters after opening the National Branding and Packaging Innovation Exhibition and Conference 2005 at Universiti Limkokwing here today.

To tackle the haze at its source, Malaysia today announced that it was sending 125 fire-fighters and five fire engines to Sumatra, where many of the 542 hotspots have been spotted.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said: "They will leave any time, once we get clearance from Indonesia."

Malaysia’s stint in Indonesia covers three aspects — putting out fires, inducing rain through cloud-seeding, and long-term plans to prevent a recurrence. 

MINUS OUTRIDERS: The Prime Minister arriving for the function without police outriders due to the haze.

On his return from Medan, Environment Minister Adenan Satem said that Indonesian ministers response to the plan had been positive.

Malaysia rushed a team of fire-fighters during a similar crisis in 1997-98, which caused large parts of Malaysia and Singapore to be enveloped in haze.

A haze emergency was declared in Sarawak state on Borneo island in September 1997 also when the pollutant index broke past the 650-level and reached 839.

Choking smog has blanketed Kuala Lumpur and parts of peninsular Malaysia for more than week, disrupting airports and shipping and raising fears over health problems.

While the cost to the economy and tourism may not be as severe as that when haze blanketed parts of the region in 1997, everyday life in the Klang Valley is already being altered.

The Government announced that schools in areas where the API is above 300 will be closed to safeguard the health of students.


Author(s) Tony Emmanuel and Annie Freeda Cruez
Website (URL) http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/Friday/Frontpage/20050812074149/Article/indexb_html

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