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Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Sumatra fires almost extinguished
Haze over a passenger jetty in Port Klang, near Kuala Lumpur
Malaysians were shrouded by a thick polluting smog
Most of the forest fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have now been extinguished, officials have said.

Smoke from the fires has shrouded parts of Malaysia in recent weeks, provoking anger with the Indonesian authorities.

But heavy rains and an international firefighting team appear to have put out most of the fires, with only a few isolated areas still ablaze.

Many of the fires were started deliberately, to clear land for plantations, mining and other purposes.

"The Malaysian and Singapore fire squads are still here. They were really helpful. The rain helped to finish the job we have done," said Yusman, a spokesman for an environmental agency in Sumatra.

Malaysia reportedly sent 128 firemen to help douse the flames, with Singapore sending a further 56.

"All areas which had been set ablaze in land clearing practices to prepare for plantation, all these can now be said to have been extinguished," Forestry Minister Malem Sambat Kaban told ElShinta radio station on Sunday.

He said there may still be a few hotspots (areas of high temperature shown on satellite images) but they did not indicate surface fires.

Mr Kaban said the main problem now was that some peat fires were still burning, because peat can stay alight underground.

"The more water you pour over [the peat], the more smoke you get," he added.

A conservation area for Sumatran tigers is close to the area of these underground fires, a local official told the Associated Press.

The haze caused by the fires has caused tension between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Critics say corruption, a lack of funds and poor law enforcement are to blame, and many Malaysians have lambasted Indonesia for failing to stop practices which lead to forest fires.

But many of the large firms in Sumatra are actually owned by businessmen from Malaysia, and criticism has also been heaped on these companies for contributing to the problem.




SEE ALSO:
Malaysia haze: Your experiences
11 Aug 05 |  Have Your Say
Malaysia haze triggers emergency
11 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Malaysia haze: Eyewitness accounts
11 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Malaysia haze
10 Aug 05 |  In Pictures
Forest fires spread in Malaysia
25 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Sumatra forest fire haze spreads
23 Jun 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Malaysia
02 Jul 05 |  Country profiles


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