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Indonesia – Malaysia sends firefighters

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Malaysia has deployed 125 firefighters to battle hundreds of blazes on Indonesia’s Sumatra island which last week blanketed the country with choking clouds of smoke and dust. Fire and rescue department spokesman, Zurkarnian Mohamad Kasim, says the contingent left for Riau province aboard three military aircraft and will be in Sumatra for at least a month.

The meteorological department says overnight rain and shifting winds has further cleared the air over the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, and surrounding districts, which last week bore the brunt of the pollution crisis.

A state of emergency was declared in two coastal towns but the measure was lifted Saturday as heavy rains and shifting winds brought a reprieve.

Forecasters have warned, however, that because hundreds of fires are still burning on Sumatra, another shift in the winds could bring the pollution back.

Indonesia’s forestry minister, Malam Sambat Kaban, says he will hold further talks with Malaysia’s environment minister, Adenan Satem, later this week to discuss further measures needed to stop the blazes that have been lit to clear land and forest fires on Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Haze is an annual problem and the worst-ever bout, in 1997 and 1998, cost the region an estimated $US9 billion in damages by disrupting air travel and other business activities.

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