Most Malaysians evacuated from Riau

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 22 Sep 2015

In this photograph taken on September 18, 2015 Malaysian nationals mostly students prepare to board a Royal Malaysian Air Force C-130 military transport plane (not in picture) at the haze covered airport in Pekanbaru during evacuation of 173 Malaysians from Riau Province located in Indonesia's Sumatra island due to choking haze from agricultural fires. - AFP

PETALING JAYA: Most Malaysians stuck at the epicentre of the haze in Indonesia’s Riau province have been evacuated with no more flights planned for the time being due to the improving weather.

Malaysian Consul-General in Pekanbaru Hardi Hamdin said 225 students as well as the families of the consulate staff were flown back to Malaysia last Friday.

The Indonesian government had declared a state of emergency in the province after its Air Pollutant Index (API) reading hit 1,000 on Sept 14.

The weather had since improved over the weekend with the API down to 197 yesterday.

“At its peak when the API hit 1,000, the sun appeared red in the sky, we could not see anything down the street outside the consulate due to the thick haze.

“But things have improved a lot. So, at this point, we are not planning any more evacuation flights,” said Hardi.

During the evacuation, which was organised by the National Security Council and Wisma Putra, Hardi said the first group of 120 Malaysians departed from Pekanbaru airport at 7pm local time, followed by a second group of 105 three and half hours later.

Besides those evacuated, a number of others had returned to Malaysia on their own.

Most of the Malaysian students in Riau are taking up Islamic studies at the Universitas Islam Negeri Sultan Syarif Kassim.

Over 300 Malaysians, mostly university students, are estimated to be in Riau.

Hardi said the areas worst hit by the haze were Riau’s capital Pekanbaru, the neighbouring province of Jambi and Palembang.

Three Malaysian staff, including Hardi, had remained behind to man the consulate.

He said they mostly stayed indoors and drank at least three litres of water daily.

“We developed cough, sore throats and eyes, headaches and a lingering taste of smoke in our mouths, but we’re getting better.”

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Environment , riau haze


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