Flashback #Star50 : Dark and hazy days in Sarawak

SARAWAK was hit by one of the worst haze episodes in the country in 1997.

Schools, businesses and the Kuching airport were forced to close as smoke from forest and peat fires in the region blanketed the state.

The government declared a haze emergency in Sarawak on Sept 19,1997, when the air pollutant index (API) in Kuching reached 650, well above the threshold of 500 for an emergency to be declared.

Four days later, the API in Kuching shot up to 839 – the highest to be recorded in Malaysia to date.

The extreme haze conditions took a toll on the Land of the Hornbills.

Recurring issue: The Star’s front-page report on the haze on June 25, 2013.Recurring issue: The Star’s front-page report on the haze on June 25, 2013.

At least 5,000 people sought treatment at government clinics for haze-related ailments such as upper respiratory problems, bronchitis, asthma and conjunctivitis in the first four days of the emergency.

Poor visibility due to the haze was blamed for several accidents, including a fatal three-vehicle collision in Sibu.

Two boys were also reported to have gotten lost when they went to trap birds in a haze-shrouded jungle near Tabuan Melayu Hilir.

Extreme conditions: The Star’s report on the haze in Sarawak in September 1997.Extreme conditions: The Star’s report on the haze in Sarawak in September 1997.

Kuching International Airport was forced to close on Sept 22,1997, when visibility dropped to 200m. It reopened briefly in the afternoon but had to close again at 4.30pm.

The haze emergency in Sarawak was lifted on Sept 28 after the API decreased in three consecutive days.

Through the years, Malaysia had been hit by haze a number of times as seen on the front page of The Star on June 25,2013.

Curious to see more features like this? Visit Starchive on our anniversary website to discover more stories through the decades.

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