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Indonesia readies warships to evacuate haze victims

JAKARTA: Indonesia is preparing warships as a last resort to evacuate children and others suffering from smoke inhalation from slash-and-burn fires, a minister said on Friday, as the country struggles to contain fires expected to continue for weeks.

Russia’s Be200 water-bomber has been successful. Similar aircraft assistance from Canada, United States and France has been sought.

Meanwhile, the fires are spreading to new areas like Papua and are unlikely to be put out till next year, according to experts. There are fires every year but this year they have been helped by drier weather brought by the El Nino. Air pollution has reached hazardous levels across Southeast Asia. Schools were closed and flights disrupted.

In Bangi, Indonesian minister counsellor Freddy M Panggabean told an UKM meet that Indonesia needs more equipment and not firemen to put out the forest fires. He wanted water-bombing aircraft to fly over the hundreds of fires emitting haze in Malaysia. “From the beginning, we never required any personnel (or) staff assistance to help with this haze problem because we have enough. What we need (is) the equipment and aircraft with the bigger capacity to carry water (of more than) 6,000 (litres),” he said.

In Kuala Lumpur air in 27 areas in the country was still recorded unhealthy o Saturday by the Department of Environment (DOE). The states in the northern part of peninsular Malaysia are still recovering from the pllution. In Penang, the API in all three stations in the state continues to record unhealthy readings.

According to reports, university students are wearing face masks in the university compound although some were practising football amidst the haze in USM field. In Kedah, the API remained at unhealthy levels with over readings of over 100. According to the Department of Environment (DOE) website, Sungai Petani in Kedah recorded the highest API readings at 111, followed by Kangar and Langkawi at 110 and Alor Star at 106. The API readings for Alor Star, Langkawi showed increase.

The Department of Environment's (DOE) portal said: Pasir Gudang recorded the highest Air Pollutant Index (API) reading at 154, followed by Kota Tinggi (147); Port Klang (140); Larkin Lama and Shah Alam (137); Kuala Selangor (127); Putrajaya (126); Banting and Bandaraya Malacca (125); Bukit Rambai (124); and Petaling Jaya (123).

Other areas: Seremban (122); Nilai and Cheras, Kuala Lumpur (117); Port Dickson (116); Tanjung Malim (115); USM (113); Kangar, Muar and Bakar Arang, Alor Setar (111); Langkawi and Seberang Jaya (110); SMK Tanjung Chat, Kota Baru (108); Alor Star (105); SK Jalan Pegoh, Ipoh (102); and Seri Manjung (101).

October 24, 2015

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