MIRI: Wild fires are raging in some 600ha of peat swamps and forests in northern Sarawak, especially in Miri division, as the dry spell in the region worsens.
Satellite images taken by the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) yesterday showed a big hot spot and several other worrying fires in Kuala Baram, a largely undeveloped area some 40km from here.
NREB assistant state controller (in charge of enforcement) Dania Goyog said the fire in Kuala Baram was serious.
There are many other smaller fires burning all over the place. We estimate that about 600ha of land have been affected by these fires.
The situation is quite bad, and if this dry spell continues, we fear that the fires may spread and result in more smoke, he said when interviewed at the airport here.
Goyog is in Miri to conduct air surveillance and to hold discussions with his officers in the northern region and with the Fire and Rescue Department on immediate measures to be taken to put out the fires.
He also held discussions with land developers, housing contractors and plantation owners to seek their help in curbing open burning on their land.
We will conduct air surveillance from Miri, Kuala Suai to Ulu Niah and inland into Tinjar and the whole of the Kuala Baram area to get an accurate picture of which areas are most affected by the fires.
As far as we know, most of the fires are confined to Miri division. The satellites detected one major hot spot and about five other big bush fires but there are many other smaller ones which cannot be detected by satellites, added Goyog.
He said the NREB was praying that cloud seeding would succeed because efforts taken by the Fire and Rescue Department to put out the fires from the ground level had failed so far.
Asked if the smoke and ash affecting Miri were due to these fires or from other fires outside Miri Division, he said the assessment made by the board was that the pollutants were from a local source.
If the wind keeps blowing in the direction of Miri town, the level of pollution may worsen.