JAKARTA, (Bernama)–The 128-strong Malaysian firefighting team arrived in Pekan Baru, the capital city of Riau province this afternoon to assist local firefighters in putting out forest and peat fires which have been the source of haze in Malaysia lately.
The team comprising the Special Malaysian Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART) and firefighters arrived in three Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) aircraft together with loads of equipment, machinery and vehicles at the Sultan Syariff Kassim II Airport at about noon local time.
A spokesman at the Malaysian Consulate in Pekan Baru said, after a short briefing by the local authorities, the Malaysian team would probably move on to Rokan Hilir this evening where the situation was most serious.
“Rokan Hilir, about five to six hours drive from here (Pekan Baru), is where most forest, bush and peat fires happen and the Malaysian team would probably be concentrated there for this one week,” he told Bernama over the phone.
He would not comment on how long the team would take to douse the fires but said a stint for more than one week would be too long and tiring for the firefighters given the hard work they have to put in round-the-clock to contain the fires.
The spokesman said, the Malaysian team probably would be assigned to initially help local firefighters contain the raging fires at a location in Rokan Hilir where bush and peat fires were nearing the Caltex pipelines and oil wells.
Earlier reports from Kuala Lumpur said the gruelling two-week mission was jointly led by Ogu Salim Omar of the National Safety Division, Senior Supt Noor Azam Kamis from the fire and rescue department and Kapt Mohd Halimi Taib from SMART.
The mission was part of the offer made by the Malaysian government to assist Indonesia in controlling the usual August dry spell phenomenon, said to be caused among others by locals farmers who chose the cheapest way to open up forest land for plantation by burning and also blamed on plantation owners who employed locals to do it.
During a crisis meeting between Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Adenan Satim and Indonesian Forestry Minister MS Kaban in Medan last week, Malaysia has also offered to help Indonesia in cloud seeding to create rainfall over the fire spots in Riau and Northern Sumatra.