Unhealthy air quality persists in Kimanis with new fires

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s southwestern Papar-Beaufort districts and parts of the state capital continue to record unhealthy air quality levels amid new localised fires.

According to the Environment Department website, the Kimanis area, located between Papar and Beaufort, continued to record air pollution levels above 155 API as of 4pm Saturday (March 23).

Sepanggar in northern Kota Kinabalu also recorded unhealthy readings as of 4pm.

The API readings are divided into five categories: Good (0–50), Moderate (51–100), Unhealthy (101–200), Very Unhealthy (201–300) and Hazardous (300 and above).

The unhealthy air situation lifted late last week after firemen put out most of the major fires across Beaufort, Papar, Kota Belud, Tuaran and Kota Kinabalu districts.

The API reading remained moderate.

Since Friday (March 22), the readings have risen again in Kimanis and Kota Kinabalu amid numerous bush, forest-jungle, peat, garbage dumpsite, and open-burning fires.

Labuan remained at moderate levels, recording 61 API most of the day, while Keningau and Sandakan were not affected by the haze.

As of 4pm Saturday, firemen were battling seven open fires in Tuaran (a 2.5ha area in Kg Simpangan), Kota Belud (15ha in Kg Kawang-Kawang and around a quarry area), Papar (an area of 0.5ha in Kg Mandahan), open areas in Kota Kinabalu (near a school in Telipok), and another fire in Tuaran (Kg Kiansom, Tamparuli).

Spokesman for the state fire operations centre, Condrad Getruda, said they were also fighting a fire involving a one-hectare area in the Sabah east coast Sandakan district.

“Our men are still on the ground fighting the fires,” he said.

Sabah Department of Environment, together with the state Information Department, had been conducting mobile campaigns in the affected areas to educate the public about refraining from open burning activities.

Since the dry spell induced by El Nino began in February, some 16 individuals or companies had been compounded RM2,000 each.