MIRI: All governmental bodies including the army and the Civil Defence Force (APM) will be mobilised to put out forest, bush and peat fires here. Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said that until yesterday, firefighters and rescuers carried out the operations alone. “This was not the case in April when all agencies including the army, APM, police including local authorities were deployed.

“At that time, there was no manpower shortages because of the cooperation,” he said when met by reporters after chairing the State Disaster Management Committee Miri Division at Tinjau Tudan Tower, yesterday. But what happened over the past few days, he said, was the firefighters and a company had worked alone until they had to ask for help from Malaysia Rescue Operation Tactical Special Team (STORM) in Kuching. “Therefore, starting tomorrow (Aug 14), I want all coordination to be strengthened and members of the disaster management committee can be mobilised because it should not be an issue or a problem,” he stressed.

In the meantime, he called on the Resident in each division to h o l d D i s a s t e r Ma n a g e m e n t Committee meetings at the divisional level to prepare for the dry season and drought that is expected to last till October.

According to Uggah, who is also the State Disaster Management Committee chairman, this is because of lack of water, and every disaster management machinery of each section needs to resolve the problem as best as possible. He also assured that the committee would ensure that the remaining allocation that had been channeled to Miri for disaster relief to be fully utilised in the firefighting operation.

“We need to operate heavy machinery such as bulldozers and others to ensure the operation is successful. In fact, we have already allocated RM600,000 to Miri to tackle disasters and that has not been fully utilised,” said Uggah.

So, he said, the remaining funds would be used to rent heavy machinees needed by the firefighters to handle the fires in Miri. Meanwhile, Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman said three divisions in Sarawak, Miri, Sibu and Mukah, would be given priority in the operation. He said the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Station had been ordered to operate round the clock until the conditions improved.