Published: Sunday July 1, 2012 MYT 7:24:00 PM
Updated: Sunday July 1, 2012 MYT 9:29:45 PM
Forest fires start again in Sarawak
By STEPHEN THEN
MIRI: Huge forest-fires have flared up again in several areas in Kuala Baram district, northern Sarawak - barely two days after heavy rain doused last week's fires and barely 24 hours after Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Douglas Ungah promised faster actions to prevent any more of such fires and haze.
Three big fires were raging Sunday in three locations - two fires inside the far reaches of the Vista Perdana residential estate and one big fire in the forested areas next to SK Chung Hua Tudan, not far from the Institute Latihan Perindustrian.
As at 5pm, the fires were still raging, a check by The Star showed.
At the fire site near the SK Chung Hua Tudan, one big block of fire could be seen billowing thick, dense smoke into the sky. The smoke was visible from five kilometres away.
Department of Environment chief for northern Sarawak, Siva Nathiran, admitted that the fires had flared up yet again.
"There was one fire that was more than 10 hectares in size. A big portion of the fires are raging underground, inside the peat-soil areas.
"I have alerted my men on the ground who are patrolling the area. The tractors are still at the site.
"Some of the fire fighting teams are inside the fire-areas. The situation is very difficult in the peat areas.
"I cannot say when these fires can be doused, but we are trying our best," he said.
At one stage, the fires burned just a few metres away from the buildings of the SK Chung Hua Tudan.
Siva said last week's fires near the Institute Latihan Perindustrian had already burned out much of the forests there, thus there is no danger of any more fresh fires at that area.
"The surface fires had burned out, but there is always a danger that the peat soil may catch fire if it is very dry.
"We have created fire breaks and have dug up drains to pump water into the dry soil," he said.
On Saturday, Ungah came to Miri to meet the various agencies involved in tackling the fire and haze menace and he admitted there were weakness that had resulted in lack of effectiveness in dealing with these woes.