Sarawakians trying their best to cope with haze

KUCHING - With little improvement after a month, many Sarawakians are just trying their best to weather the haze problem.

Layang Layang Aerospace, which operates Sarawak's flying doctor service, has seen its Kuching helicopter grounded for most of the se­cond half of this month.

"It's just so bad and unfortunate. Our helicopters should not fly when visibility is under 3km. We need ground visuals, not to mention visuals of electricity poles and all sorts," said ope­rations manager Captain Irwin Menezes, who is also chief pilot.

The company's helicopters are based in the state capital, Sibu and Miri. So far, the Sibu and Miri teams have not been affected.

The flying doctor serves rural Sarawak where there is no road access, visiting up to 100 settlements each month.

"Everyone in the aviation industry is affected, including commercial flights. Our wor­kers have caught the flu although no one has taken leave. As advised, we drink lots of water to get through the haze," added Menezes.

Meanwhile, hotel corporate communications executive Ng Ai Fern is worried about her six-month-old's health ever since the haze started last month.

"What do you do when the air is this bad? He has been coughing a little bit. He is too young to be taking medicine.

"People say drink lots of water but my baby is only six months old. He can't drink that much water and he can't tell us how he feels," she said.

Since last week, Ng and her husband have kept their son indoors as much as possible. Except for trips to the nanny during the day - as both parents work - they do not expose him to the outdoors.

"You constantly feel he is at risk. He stays indoors with the air-conditioner on all day long, but then again, too much air-cond is not good," she added.

Visibility in Kuching yesterday afternoon was 800m.

State health director Datuk Dr Zulkifli Jan­tan said there had been an increase of 30 per cent in outpatient cases related to the haze since last week.

"In this situation it is normal to have more patients. However, there has not been any significant increase in hospital admissions," he said.

Several areas in Sarawak continued to experience unhealthy air quality yesterday, with Samarahan recording the highest Air Pollutant Index (API) reading of 191 at 9am before dropping to 167 at 3pm.

The API was 150 in Kuching and 127 in Sri Aman at 3pm while Sarikei recorded 101 briefly before going down to 100.