KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians need not worry about the haze returning despite fires burning in Riau, Sumatra, and in parts of Malaysia – at least until May.
Meteorological Department director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail said Malaysia was safe from the choking smog from Sumatra because of the north-east monsoon.
“The wind is blowing from the north-east direction, meaning whatever haze that is coming from Indonesia won’t be blown to Malaysia.
“That will last until March and April will see the inter monsoon, where the wind will be light and variable and we will have more rainfall, especially in the west coast of peninsular Malaysia.
“It’s in May or June when the south-west monsoon comes that we have to worry,” she said.
Air pollutant index readings across the country were moderate to good as of 2pm yesterday.
Indonesia is also on guard over the forest and land fires , having declared a state of emergency in Riau, which the provincial government said was a precautionary measure to prevent a repeat of the 2015 haze.
Che Gayah said, for the time being, Malaysia’s only worry about haze was those produced from within its borders, as firemen nationwide work to battle as many as 11 raging hotspots in the country.
The Fire and Rescue Department said that the Malaysian fires – mostly in Pahang, Kelantan and Sabah – were still manageable but the situation could get out of hand fast if the prolonged dry season continued.
“Just yesterday, we had 34 bush fires reported by 2pm. If the hot weather continues, there will definitely be more. But these are small fires that we can contain and put out fast,” said the department’s deputy director-general (operations) Datuk Soiman Jahid.
He said the biggest fire raging now was in Sepang near the 27.4km mark of the Elite Highway, where 1.62ha of peat soil was still burning.
Officers have been battling the fires there for a week now.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said fires in Malaysia were still manageable and expressed more concern over the fires in Riau.
“We have more hotspots but they are smaller than in Indonesia. We have our enforcement officers on the ground to extinguish them and we are moving fast. Indonesia is struggling at the moment. If they were to ask for help, we can assist their mission if the need arises,” he said.