Fire Ravages Forest Reserve Bordering Malaysian Airport, AdministrativeCapital
published by Associated Press
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Firefighters used helicopters to douse a fire sweeping through a massive forest reserve bordering Malaysia’s administrative capital and the international airport, reports said Thursday. About 80 square kilometers (32 square miles) of the 44,488 square kilometers (17,795 square miles) Raja Muda Musa forest reserve has been gutted over the past week by the bush fire, triggered by hot humid weather and exacerbated by strong winds, the Star reported. The fire is threatening to reach areas surrounding the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the Malaysian administrative capital of Putrajaya and parts of neighboring Selangor and Perak states, the report cited Nor Hisham Mohammad, a senior fire official as saying. Nor Hisham was not immediately available for comment. It was not clear if the airport and Putrajaya faced any imminent danger from the fire. The Kuala Selangor coastal town, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the forest reserve, has been engulfed in acrid smoke and dust for the past week, the Star reported. Nor Hisham said the foliage density and the absence of any tracks in the virgin jungle made it difficult for helicopters bringing fire fighting equipment to land, the report said. More than 160 firefighters have been deployed and helicopters were dropping water bombs to douse the fire. Authorities were considering dispatching more firefighters and equipment from neighboring states, Nor Hisham told the Star. Forest fires often occur in Malaysia during dry spells sparked from illegal fires set by farmers to clear ground for new crops or carelessly discarded cigarette butts. Meanwhile, huge tracts of peat land in Indonesia’s Riau province in Sumatra Island have been on fire for the past week, threatening air quality in neighboring countries, the Malaysian-based Global Environment Center said in a statement. About 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of peat land have so far been destroyed in the Riau fires “and if wind direction changes, the smoke will also blow toward Singapore and Peninsula Malaysia,” the statement said. “We need to work with local and regional stakeholders to address the problem.” In 1997-98, blazes on oil palm plantations and farms in Indonesia’s Sumatra and Kalimantan provinces burned out of control for weeks, destroying 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of land and blanketing Singapore and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia with thick smoke.