Brunei:Seria Bypass Still Closed As Firemen Battle PeatFires

15March 2005

Brunei Direct – By Liza Mohd

 BandarSeri Begawan – Roads leading to areas with recurring bushfires, especiallypeat fires, along the Seria bypass, a one-kilometre stretch of road from Andukito Sg Liang remains closed for traffic.

Following a big forest fire on March 5 that reduced visibility to almost zero,police officials have closed the Anduki-Seria highway from Seria three junctionpoint, Anduki and Sg Liang. As the haze started to decrease, the police openedpart of the closed highway from Seria to Anduki.

According to Commanding Officer B Command, Senior Superintendent Lim HockGuan, eight hectares of forest along the highway were destroyed in the blaze.

Senior Supt Lim added that minor fires have been reported since February thisyear. But the March 5 fire was uncontrollable causing zero visibility along thehighway.

Owing to the current dry season over 90 per cent of peat forest in the BelaitDistrict are susceptible to fire.

Sea breeze fuels the fire by spreading it to other parts of peat forestsometimes reaching 30 metres below ground level, Senior Supt Lim said.

Fire Services personnel had set up a camp near Kg Badas area called “CommandPost Embun Dua” to carry out 24-hour operations to put out recurring fires.

The operation codenamed “Operasi Memadam Api dan Asap Jln Seria LumutAnduki Bypass” involved 70 Fire Services personnel.

The sky opened in the Belait District Sunday and the rain lasted for a coupleof hours. But the road remains closed as the downpour did not dampen theaffected area.

Senior Supt Lim said the firemen have been extinguishing fires using aflooding method sector by sector. The nozzle is injected into the ground usingan open water source and also a ground monitor. But smoke seems to re-emergefrom the peat.

Senior Supt Lim advised members of the public not to carry out open burningactivities.

He also urged them to contact the Fire Services Department at the earliesteven if they spot small fires.

Police officials are hoping to open the highway soon and ease the traffic jam,particularly during peak hours. However, it depends on the visibility andaffirmation from fire officials.

A police official recalled an incident in 1998, when 10 vehicles wereinvolved in an accident along the highway due to the haze leaving six dead. Headded that officials are taking stringent steps to avoid such mishaps.

Car headlights are not enough to beat the low visibility on the road as smokehinders road users’ sight to stay on their lane resulting in collisions.

The police has advised road users to be patient while Fire Services personnelare busy dousing the fires. In the meantime, drivers have to use alternativeroutes to reach their destinations. — Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin


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