KUCHING: The States worst drought in nine years has affected nearly 30,000 people in the last two months.
According to Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan, about a million litres of fresh water had been sent to the residents of 98 villages and longhouses since the dry spell began in June.
“The drought is expected to last until the middle of next month,” Dr Chan, who is also the State Disaster and Relief Management Committee chairman, said after chairing the haze relief and management meeting here yesterday.
The meeting was attended by officials from the Crisis and Disaster Management Directorate, the National Disaster Relief Management Committee, residents of the States 11 administrative divisions and heads of government departments involved in disaster relief.
He described the situation in some areas as “bad”, adding that although occasional rain was expected between now and mid-September, it would not be enough to end the drought the worst since 1997.
The worst hit areas are the Samarahan, Betong and Sri Aman divisions.
The catchment areas of Sarikei, Bintangor and Bawang Assan are also contaminated by saltwater.
Dr Chan said Public Works Department tankers and Marine Department boats were used to supply fresh water to the drought-stricken areas.
He warned people not to start bush fires and also reminded the public to comply with the ban on open burning enforced since July 13.
The Fire and Rescue Department had been placed on high alert and ordered to deploy men “in areas facing the greatest fire threats”.
The meeting yesterday also set up the Haze Emergency Centre, to be operational once the air pollutant index (API) hits the unhealthy level of 100.
The centre will co-ordinate all management and relief work.
Dr Chan said although the API reading was currently low as rain and strong winds over the past few days had improved air quality, the haze was slowly returning.
At 11am yesterday, the API reading for Kuching was 74 (68 at 5pm on Wednesday), Sibu 59 (66 on Wednesday), Bintulu 68 (63 on Wednesday), Miri 57 (Wednesdays reading not available), Sarikei 62 (57 on Wednesday), Limbang 52 (46 on Wednesday), Samarahan 62 (54 on Wednesday), Sri Aman 64 (70 on Wednesday), Kapit 59 (63 on Wednesday) and Petra Jaya 73 (62 on Wednesday).