Deputy Premier: Sarawak on high alert for wildfires as dry season could last until June

Uggah wishing Abang Johari (in songkok) Selamat Hari Raya upon arriving at the latter's open house at BCCK on April 22, 2023.

By Wilfred Pilo and Karen Bong

KUCHING, April 22: With the hot and dry season forecasted to last until June, Sarawak is keeping a close eye on areas with a significant risk of wildfire, especially Baram in Miri, due to its large peat area.

Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas emphasised that Sarawak has stepped up preparations by ensuring all necessary machinery is in place to respond to any incidents, including welfare assistance and water supply delivery to areas that may be affected.

“Tomorrow, (Transport Minister) Dato Lee Kim Shin will call a meeting in Miri to review all facilities, including watch towers, dams, and tube wells, to ensure they are ready.

“Most importantly, the public should stop open burning, and they should help to extinguish and put out fires, should they spot any,” he told reporters when met at Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg and wife Puan Sri Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tun Tuanku Bujang’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here today.

Following a recent Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) meeting, Uggah said all relevant agencies and departments were briefed on the actions to reduce hotspots in the region, thereby reducing the risk of a haze.

“NREB (Natural Resources and Environmental Board) will monitor areas with open burning and take action against offenders. The environmental department will also be enforcing its laws and regulations.

“Resident offices, District offices and Divisional (Disaster Management) Committees across Sarawak have been instructed to prepare for any consequences and minimise the impact on the people,” he added.

To tackle the transboundary haze issue, Uggah, also SDMC chairman, pointed out that Sarawak will be giving feedback to the Federal government, which sits on the Asean committee.

“But we have to be wary of the possibility of transboundary haze affecting Brunei, as Kuala Baram is nearby. Nevertheless, we have the experience and look forward to overcoming this problem,” he said.

On Covid-19, Uggah said that cases in Sarawak remained relatively low compared to Peninsula Malaysia, despite the emergence of the latest Arcturus variant.

“All positive samples collected in Sarawak are sent to Unimas to identify the Covid variants. So they found the variant (XBB1.16) in Sarawak, but we do not know the origin,” he said.

However, he urged Sarawakians not to take their symptoms as the common flu or cold but to get tested in clinics immediately.

“If you feel unwell or experience fever or high body temperature, immediately go to the nearest clinic to be tested. There are now vaccines and medicines available for free for those who need them, and many lives can be saved,” he advised. — DayakDaily