MIRI: The Sarawak Government has ordered the mobilisation of more manpower, heavy-duty machinery and fire-fighting equipment to prevent wildfires from spreading in Miri.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam, who is also state Disaster Relief Committee chairman, said the fires were being contained and there would not be a repeat of the major 1997-1998 forest fires and haze incident.
“The situation now is not too worrying. The fires are still localised . We are trying to control the fires and stop them from spreading.
“We will create fire breaks in the affected areas. Luckily, the water table in the areas is high, so even if we cannot douse the fires, they will eventually die off,” he told reporters when met at the airport here after conducting an aerial surveillance of the areas.
Dr Chan, who is state Finance, Public Utilities and Industrial Development Minister, said the Sarawak Curtin University of Technology campus in Lutong, about 25km from here, would remain closed for the time being because the area was affected by smoke from surrounding fires.
He said the university had not shut down operations but had merely postponed an orientation ceremony.
“The new semester will only start next week. This is just the orientation week. By next week, the situation there should be back to normal, hopefully,” he said.
Dr Chan was earlier briefed by senior officers of the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board and the Fire and Rescue Department on the latest situation in the affected areas in the Kuala Baram region (35km from here), Tudan (30km from here) and the Curtin campus.
Dr Chan said the fires were burning itself out in the affected areas.
“It is important for all fires to be doused when they are small. Once they get too big, they cannot be contained,” he said.
Dr Chan said private land contractors and developers had been directed to douse fires on their land as they were responsible even if they had not started the fires.
The Fire and Rescue Department will handle fires on state land and help in privately-owned land.
Yesterday afternoon, air quality in Miri town improved due to a change in wind direction, but heavy smoke was still present in the outskirts where fires were still burning.