moke from the jungle is posing increasing danger to motorists travelling the highway to oil town Kuala Belait and Seria as bush fires cut visibility and the smoke filled area have become a health hazard.
The stench from the smouldering bush and peat fires have also become a nuisance for residents in the area as well as for commuters who travel from the capital to the Belait District via the highway, where most of the haze from these flames collect.
One road user, who commutes more than three times a week to the district, said that visibility along the highway is greatly reduced, especially when the haze is thickest, which is before 7am. A frequent traveller, Mariana Hj Ahmad, added that the haze originates from the bush fires in the Badas interior areas.
“It is quite dangerous for drivers as we can’t see that far ahead (because of the haze),” said the secondary science teacher, adding that overtaking on the highway was more difficult due to the poor visibility.
She said that she was rather troubled by the fires, adding that they could have been solely caused by the ongoing dry spell and the carelessness of some road users who may have improperly disposed of their cigarettes.
Regardless of the cause of these fires, Mariana stressed that the fires were inaccessible to fire fighters because of the terrain. However, she hoped that the authorities would find a way to put off the fires to safeguard road users as well as residents in the area.
Tina, who resides in Kuala Belait, agreed that visibility has been reduced for motorists, especially near the Seria-Lumut bypass. She added that motorists tend to slow down and switch on their headlights as a precaution.
However, she said that the situation was still tolerable, although it bothered her that the trees and bushes have been burning for nearly a week. Another resident, Sheren from Mumong said that the ash from the fires may have affected her health as she has developed flu over the past few days.
“The air is not clean because of the ash flying around there,” she said, referring to the Kuala Belait-Seria bypass.
She added that she has resigned to staying indoors as the fires have caused the surrounding air to warm up considerably.
“I am sort of concerned since the fires makes the air quite hot,” Sheren said. “So I don’t feel like walking outside. I’d rather stay inside the house with the air-conditioning.”
She added that the ash has also settled on her car, which she found to be quite troublesome as she has to clean her car more often.
She said that the blaze, which she believes has been going on for the past two to three days, needs to be put out before the whole forest burns down.
She noted that fire trucks have been unable to douse the flames due to the non-existence of roads leading to the fires. Several residents have also observed helicopters, carrying fire-retardant substances in an attempt to put out the flames.