Monday, 31 March 2014

Tighter flight security. #MH370 #PrayForMH370

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and Malaysia Airports Hol­dings Bhd (MAHB) have tightened flight security in the air and on the ground in the wake of the Flight MH370 tragedy.

The pilot and a co-pilot are now not allowed to be left alone in the cockpit, even when one of them is taking a toilet break, according to a MAS circular.

Under the new rules, a cabin crew member has to be in the cockpit until the pilot or co-pilot returns from the restroom.

When bringing food to the cockpit, a flight attendant is required to stand guard at the door to make sure no passenger enters the restricted area.

Datuk Capt Missman Leham, MAS chief pilot for flight safety and human factors, issued the circular to all flight deck crews.

On the ground, MAHB has made it mandatory for anyone taking an international flight to pass through two metal-detectors and undergo a body search before they board.

The travellers must now also remove their shoes, belt, jackets and any electronic devices such as cellphones and laptop computers for separate scanning. Bottled drinking water is not allowed to be brought aboard.

The United States, Britain and Australia had asked that security checks on all passengers flying to the countries be increased.

MAHB has also extended such checks to other international flights and has adopted the same prohibited items list applied by the US Transportation Security Administration.

The rules came into effect the week of March 8, the day that Flight MH370 to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur disappeared with 239 passengers and crew aboard.

A MAS spokesman confirmed that the airline has increased security and enhanced monitoring procedures on board all its aircraft.

“However, for security purposes we are unable to discuss any of these procedures publicly.

“Security checks are mandated by the aviation security authorities and conducted by them,” the spokesman said.

There are already several security and safety procedures for cockpit crew and aircraft, a MAS pilot told The Star.

He said there was a rule that pilot and co-pilot were each served a different set of meal, which was to avoid any likelihood of both coming down with food poisoning at the same time.

“Another measure requires crew members to thoroughly check all compartments in the cockpit, cabin, crew rest areas, galley and toilets for any foreign objects before the passengers board.

“Stewards and stewardesses must also watch out for travellers behaving suspiciously or passengers taking hand luggage into the toilet,” said the pilot who asked not to be identified.

MAHB reminded all travellers departing from the KLIA for international destinations that they should check in within the stipulated three-hour period.

“This is so that they will have adequate time to clear immigration and security checks. The stringent checks are for the safety of the aircraft, passengers and crew, and everyone should give us their full cooperation,” said the spokesman.
Posted on 16:00 | Categories:

RMAF ensures all SAR crews' needs are met. #MH370 #PrayForMH370

The  Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Subang recently resembled a mini United Nations as it became a crucial centre for military flight operations involving foreign Air Force assets in search of flight MH370.

Base commander Brigadier General Abdul Manaf Md Zaid said the Subang airbase was ready round the clock to handle all missions assigned to it.

“Representatives of the air forces and their respective embassies briefed us on their requirements which range from providing administrative rooms to fuel and aircraft maintenance support,” Abdul Manaf said.

With 13 foreign aircraft at the base, providing logistics support for them is no easy task.

However, Abdul Manaf said it was a learning experience to integrate the operations of various planes from various air forces in the base.

“Our men are in high morale despite any setbacks and, with a mission to perform, we work round the clock to ensure there is no interference for the planes to fly their missions,” he said.

From the air traffic controllers and air marshalls to the engineers and logistics support team, they work in a seamless operation, ensuring that all the needs of the crews are met, from fuel to flight rations.

With the support on the ground, the air crews were able to to carry out their missions to their assigned sectors, which could take up to 12 hours including flying time to and from the Indian Ocean.

The base was on alert from March 8 when news of the missing Flight MH370 came out and it “received” its first guest from the United States on March 9.

“To ensure the foreign air force crews are well taken care of, two air force liaison officers have been assigned to take care of each foreign team,” Abdul Manaf said.

Various squadrons were involved in ensuring base operations ran smoothly with the huge number of aircraft involved.

Some of them included the logistics and administrative squadron, the provost for security, engineering and the air operations squadron.

On top of providing support to the foreign air forces, they also had to provide support for a few local flying squadrons.

Describing the airbase as “almost fully occupied”, he said the personnel had to ensure that every space was fully optimised. This included moving the planes from time to time to ensure that all planes had ample space to move and carry out the required maintenance activities.

“Safety is of the utmost importance and we run on a shift system to ensure everyone is able to complete their designated tasks,” he said.

As of now, Abdul Manaf said he left it to the squadron commanders to handle their manpower planning to ensure that the personnel have their required leave and their training needs are met.

Concluding the interview, he said: “Everyone in this airbase has MH370 on their mind and is committed to mobilise all the strength needed to achieve the mission.”
Posted on 11:00 | Categories:

Friday, 21 March 2014

Arduous search ahead, says Australia. #MH370 #PrayForMH370

 The Australian government has warned that it could take days to locate the objects believed to be related to the missing Malaysian Airlines plane, the Australian Association Press (AAP) reports.

The Australian-led search of the massive area 2,500km southwest of Perth has resumed after Australian and US aircraft on Thursday failed to locate the two objects photographed by a satellite earlier in the week.

Four military aircraft - two Royal Australian Air Force Orions, a New Zealand Orion and a US Navy P8 Poseidon - are scouring the area on Friday.

The Norwegian merchant vessel St Petersburg remains in the area and another merchant vessel is expected to arrive Friday night. The navy's HMAS Success is also en route and expected to arrive on Saturday.

"To date, no sightings have been reported," AAP quoted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority as saying on Friday.

Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss said the search would be "difficult and challenging", particularly because the objects could have drifted since the satellite spotted them.

The government had cautioned that while the satellite images were "credible", the objects might turn out to be unrelated to the plane.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Papua New Guinea on Thursday that it was the most promising lead so far in the search for flight MH370, which disappeared with 239 people on board almost two weeks ago.

"We don't know what that satellite saw until we get a much closer look at it, but this is the most tangible clue in what's been an utterly baffling mystery.

"We are throwing all the resources we can at it. We will do everything we humanly can to try to get to the bottom of this," he had said.

The Star
Posted on 14:09 | Categories:

Thursday, 20 March 2014

FBI analysing data from pilot’s simulator. #MH370 #PrayForMH370

 The FBI is helping Malaysian authorities to analyse data from a flight simulator belonging to the captain of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, according to a Reuters report.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, said an examination of the simulator, taken from the home of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, showed its data log had been cleared on Feb 3, more than a month before the airliner, carrying 239 people, disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

No wreckage has been found from the jetliner, which vanished from air traffic control screens off Malaysia's east coast at 1.21am on March 8, less than an hour after taking off.

Malaysia has now made available to the FBI electronic data generated by both pilots of Flight MH370, including data from a hard drive attached to the captain's flight simulator, and from electronic media used by the co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, a US law enforcement official told Reuters.

The official said he could not confirm that some data had been wiped from the simulator and stressed that there was no guarantee the FBI analysis would turn up any fresh clues.

The FBI has extensive experience investigating airplane crashes, including those of TWA 800 and EgyptAir 990 off the US east coast in the 1990s and Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

In the case of EgyptAir 990, the FBI helped air safety investigators establish that the crash was caused by a suicidal co-pilot, while in the case of Pan Am 103, the agency worked with British and US intelligence to build a case against the government of Libya.

The unprecedented search for the Boeing 777-200ER had focused on two vast search corridors: one arcing north overland from Laos towards the Caspian Sea, the other curving south across the Indian Ocean from west of Indonesia's Sumatra island to west of Australia.

"The working assumption is that it went south, and furthermore that it went to the southern end of that corridor," said a source close to the investigation.

That view is based on the lack of any evidence from countries along the northern corridor that the plane entered their airspace, and the failure to find any trace of wreckage in searches in the upper part of the southern corridor.

Some sources involved in the investigation have voiced fears it could stall due to the reluctance of countries in the region to share militarily sensitive radar data that might shed new light on the direction the jet took.

Malaysian and US officials believe the aircraft was deliberately diverted perhaps thousands of miles off course, but an exhaustive background search of the passengers and crew aboard has not yielded anything that might explain why.

If the plane did indeed end up in the southern Indian Ocean, one of the remotest places on Earth and also one of the deepest seas, it increases the chance it may never be found - and investigators may never know for sure what happened on board.

Officials believe that someone with detailed knowledge of both the Boeing 777 and commercial aviation navigation switched off two vital datalinks: the ACARS system, which relays maintenance data back to the ground, and the transponder, which enables the plane to be seen by civilian radar.

US agencies have looked for evidence that anyone other than the pilots knew how disable ACARS but have found nothing. - Reuters
Posted on 14:30 | Categories:

Flight simulator’s info erased. #MH370 #PrayForMH370

Most of the information from Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s private flight simulator has been erased.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar told the daily press conference at the Sama-Sama Hotel here that most of the data in the simulator had been erased on Feb 3, but experts were now trying to recover the data by tracing the forensic footprint.

The IGP’s statement debunks a report in a daily which reported that five landing sites had been discovered in the MH370 pilot’s flight simulator.

The daily reported on Tuesday that the simulator showed five landing sites in the northern and southern corridors of the ongoing search and rescue operation.

The sites were Sri Lanka, Maldives, Diego Garcia and two in India.

Asked to comment on the report, the IGP said: “It is false.”

He said forensic experts, including Cyber Security and Malaysia Airlines (MAS) as well as their foreign counterparts were working on recovering the deleted data log.

“We took away the simulator on Sunday and discovered there were three games in the device – Microsoft Flight Simulator 10 (FSX), Microsoft Flight Simulator 9 (FS9) and X-Plane 10.

He added that Capt Zaharie’s family had given their full cooperation in the investigation.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also confirmed that most of the information had been erased.

“However, investigators may be able to recover some of the erased data,” he told a press conference yesterday.

He clarified that police were not out to prosecute Capt Zaharie or apply pressure on any family member.

“All actions are aimed at producing a complete investigation so we can discover the reason or cause behind the missing plane,” he said.

On co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, Dr Ahmad Zahid said police had not uncovered anything to indicate he was involved in a deliberate act of steering the plane off course.

He added that police had completed background checks on all 237 people on board the flight but more detailed checks were still being conducted.

Dr Ahmad Zahid also confirmed that the two Iranians who boarded the flight using stolen passports had been cleared of any terrorist link.
Posted on 10:32 | Categories:

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Public and businesses turn to using paper and polystyrene.

Water rationing is not only bad news for consumers, the environment is suffering too as more people turn to paper and polystyrene cups, plates and utensils.

Consumers said they are forced to make this trade-off to conserve water.

At a hypermarket in Subang Jaya, Faridah Hussin, 30, was seen buying a bundle of 100 polystyrene plates because of the water shortage.

“We have four people in the house including a six-month-old baby. Sometimes, the water tank at home is not sufficient to last us two days.

“So, we need to save water as much as possible and that includes not washing plates,” she said.

Business owners have also been forced to adapt as the third phase of water rationing in the Klang Valley enters its second week.

Gerald Tung, who runs a restaurant in SS2 Petaling Jaya, said business had definitely slowed down since the water rationing exercise started.

Tung’s restaurant, which comprises 10 stalls selling hawker food, has been fairly quiet even during lunchtime.

“Many of my customers prefer to pack food to eat at home or in the office, rather than dine at the restaurant.

“The haze has also forced people to stay home,” said Tung, who is relying on water from his storage tank.

The restaurant uses disposable cups on days when there is no water supply.

“Every cup costs an extra 20sen but I have to absorb the extra cost myself.

“If I do not use disposable cups, I will have to waste water washing the cups,” he said, adding that some of his customers had complained as they preferred drinking hot beverages in ceramic cups.

Chen Lee Men, who runs a stall selling porridge, said it was not easy to store water ahead of time.

“It is okay on the first day but becomes difficult on the second as I have to bring water from home.

“Bringing water from home has added to my workload,” said Lee, who said she might have to close her stall more often.

Several stalls were also seen using disposable bowls and plates while a handful had closed shop for the day.

Mixed-rice seller Lim Pei Yuen brought water in huge plastic containers from his house in Seri Kembangan.

“I try to reduce the number of dishes and use paper plates,” said Lim, who cooks more than 20 dishes at the restaurant itself.He said he had no plans to prepare the dishes at home as he wanted his customers to have freshly cooked food for lunch.

Barista Geraldine Tan said the cafe she worked at was using water from their tank and keeping their fingers crossed it would be enough to last them for two days.

“We have stopped giving out free water to customers,” she said.

At 1Utama shopping centre, its advertising and promotions general manager Patrick So said the mall had limited the usage at their washrooms by reducing the number available, to avoid wastage.

“We also do not water our plants as often as we normally do,” he said.

Mydin Group marketing and communications manager Sabariah Mohd said there was a 20% to 25% increase in sales of disposable utensils, including paper plates and cups, since the water rationing exercise began.

“As for bottled water, sales have increased by 30% to 40%,” she said.

She assured the mall had sufficient supply to meet demand.

“The sale of fruit juices have also increased by 20% to 30%,” she added.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Green Living coordinator Wong Ee Lynn advised consumers to eat and cook light meals such as one pot dishes like noodle soup or pasta.

“During this water rationing period, people can cut down on greasy food and cooking many dishes to avoid having to use a lot of water to wash up,” she said.

Fomca secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj urged the public to bring their own containers when buying food outside.

“They can layer the containers with paper towels to soak up the oil,” he said, adding this would make washing easier.

He said this habit should be cultivated as a long-term solution instead of using polystyrene.

Wong, too, advised hawkers to use brown paper instead of polystyrene plates or containers.

“The manufacture of polystyrene and foam items actually uses a lot of water. We may not see it and think we are saving water by using these items as we do not need to wash them. But that is not the case,” she said.

Phase three of water rationing involves 722,424 households in 593 areas in Gombak, Petaling, Klang, Shah Alam, Kuala Selangor and Hulu Selangor, while phase one that started earlier covered 71 areas with 60,185 households in Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat dan Sepang.

The water rationing exercise is expected to last till March 31.

From terror to suicide - all possible motives count as the world tries to solve puzzle. #MH370 #PrayForMH370

As the world scrambles to solve the frustrating puzzle of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, every possible motive is being looked at.

Anything from terrorism, hijack and suicide is being looked at.

Both Malaysia and China are looking into the terror angle with MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari saying that the passenger manifest had been passed to the police to check the background of each passenger.

“We know the background of the crew and now the police are doing background checks on the passengers,” he said.

Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein also said Beijing had been asked to look again at the passenger manifest although all of them had earlier been cleared by the Chinese.

The details of the probe into the stolen passports used by two Iranian passengers will be made public.

However, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said at the Dewan Rakyat that the details would be only made public “in due course”.

Iranians Pouri Nour Mohammad Merhdad, 19, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Erza, 29, raised a global stir when they reportedly flew here from Doha using Iranian passports and then switched to stolen Austrian and Italian passports to board the Malaysia Airlines flight to Beijing on March 8.

Initial investigations showed that Pouri Nour had planned to go to Germany to seek asylum and reunite with his mother in Frankfurt.

The passports held by Pouri Nour and Delavar were reported stolen in Thailand in the past two years.

More chilling, though, is a claim by an American expert that the plane’s disappearance could be part of a suicide plot by a crew member.

A top terrorism expert told the New York Post that there was a growing consensus that this was a suicide by the pilot or co-pilot.

“They wanted to get as far away and land in the farthest and deepest part of the ocean,” said Rep Pete King (R-LI), chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intel­ligence.

King said the scheme might have hinged on the hope that family members could still collect life insurance on the dead pilot or co-pilot.

“If they never find the plane, they can’t call it suicide,” he claimed.

Hishammuddin did not discount the possibility when he was asked about it yesterday. It is also learnt that police are delving into the behaviour patterns of the crew members in the days prior to the flight.

King said the Americans believe the Beijing-bound airliner headed south towards the Indian Ocean after its “turnback” as some of the deepest spots of any ocean were to be found there.

King expressed doubt that the pilot and co-pilot were both in on the plan, adding: “One or the other would have to somehow silence the other.”

The plane’s sharp climb to 45,000 feet, as recorded by Malaysian military radar, would probably have “incapacitated” everyone outside the cockpit by rapidly reducing oxygen levels in the cabin, King told the Post.

Posted on 10:22 | Categories:

Monday, 17 March 2014

Air quality improves across Malaysia. #HAZE

The air quality in the country improved Monday after dropping to “very unhealthy” levels in some areas over the last few days.

No area nationwide had air quality at “unhealthy” levels as at 6am, according to the Department of Environment (DoE).

The Air Pollutant Index (API) readings released by DoE showed 11 areas with “moderate” Air Pollution Index (API) readings and 41 with “good” readings.

Among the places with “moderate” API readings were Muar (57), Kangar (53), Kuala Selangor (60) and Putrajaya (68).

Places with “good” API readings included Kuala Terengganu (24), Kuching (19), Seri Manjung in Perak (21) and Alor Setar (47).

An API reading of zero to 50 is categorised as good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy and 301 and above, hazardous.

Friday, 14 March 2014

US zeroes in on Indian Ocean to find missing #MH370. #PrayForMH370

A new search area in the Indian Ocean has raised hopes of finding the missing MH370 with the Pentagon confirming that new evidence has emerged.

A Pentagon official told The Star that the US was opening a new area of investigation following indications that the Boeing 777-200ER could have gone down there.

When contacted at 2am on Friday, the official said he had no knowledge of whether missile destroyer USS Kidd was heading there for search operations.

“The White House press secretary has just said that we may open a search in the Indian Ocean,” he said.

He said this when asked to confirm a report by ABC News, which reported that US officials had an “indication” that the missing Malaysia Airlines plane may have crashed in the Indian Ocean and was moving the USS Kidd to the area to begin searching.

The report quoted a senior Pentagon official as saying that it will take another 24 hours to move the ship into position.

Reuters reported that White House spokesman Jay Carney said they had new information on the whereabouts of the plane.

“It’s my understanding that based on some new information that’s not necessarily conclusive - but new information - an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean.

“And we are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy.” he said.

In the transcript of the White House’s latest press briefing on its website, Carney said it was still too early to draw any conclusions from the ongoing investigations on the missing plane.

“Conclusions cannot be drawn at this time, in our view, and we continue to participate actively in the search as well as assist the Malaysian government in the investigation.

“I can remind you if you need to know of the assets that we’ve sent to the region, including aircraft and helicopters and two destroyers that are a part of the effort of the search underway.

“But when it comes to conclusions from that investigation, it’s too early to draw any, in our view,” he said.

Posted on 15:00 | Categories:

Hot spell, peat fires and open burning raise air pollutant index,. #HAZE

TRANS-boundary haze, peat and forest fires, and land clearing through burning of agricultural land are contributing to the high air pollutant index in the Klang Valley.

Selangor Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong said things took a turn for the worse on Wednesday night.

“This year, we have recorded more than 2,000 cases of fires in Selangor in February alone, compared to 200 cases in the same month last year.

“Everything has become a fire hazard,” she added.

She said the state was doing everything it could to control the fires and ensure it did not contribute to the haze.

Andalas Fire Station chief Zulkepeli Othman echoed Wong’s statement, adding that fires in Johan Setia Klang and along the Kesas Highway were contributing to the high air-pollutant index in Klang, Shah Alam and Subang.

He said apart from smaller fires in Klang, the peat fires in Johan Setia, Jalan Kebun and Jalan Kebun Baru had made things worse.

Zulkepeli attributed the cause of the fire to agricultural burning and said the wind had brought the fire closer to the residential area in Jalan Sopan.

“We are trying to manage all the fires around Klang and Shah Alam. The fire in Jalan Sopan escalated quickly and we were afraid for the safety of nearby residents,” he said when met at the scene at noon yesterday.

He said the wind played a huge factor in spreading the fire to nearby areas.

“We are now using direct attacks to put out the fire since we have to tackle the embers left behind. A slight gust of wind can spread the fire again,” he added.

Zulkepeli said the fire station had received a distress call at noon on Wednesday from resident Istiqomah Sukardi, 37.

Istiqomah said her 10-year-old son first spotted the fire on Tuesday evening in an empty plot of land adjacent to their home.

“We put the fire out with the help of some factory workers nearby. However, we were shocked to see the fire in another area of the large plot of land on Wednesday,” she said.

Istiqomah said this was the first fire they had seen since they moved into the area six years ago.

The Fire and Rescue team has already found a number of dead animals in the 4ha plot of land and are afraid for the safety of the family, who have declined relocation for the moment.

“My children are having their examinations and it will be disruptive for us to move out,” Istiqomah said.

They have taken to closing all the doors and windows and staying within their home to avoid breathing in the dark smoke.

However, both Zulkepeli and Wong were concerned over the family’s decision.

Wong said she would try and negotiate with the family to relocate them to a relative’s house or a hotel for the time being.

“It will take us another day or two to put the fire out but the water rationing that begins on Friday will hamper our efforts,” said Wong.

There are 11 firefighters and two fire trucks working round the clock to put out the fire.

Zulkepeli said they would have to look for water from other sources when the rationing kicked in.
Posted on 10:47 | Categories:

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Unhealthy air readings recorded in five towns. #HAZE

Unhealthy air levels have been recorded in Nilai, Seremban, Banting, Port Klang and Shah Alam.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department reported that the air pollutant index (API) recorded at 3pm yesterday showed the levels in Nilai at 112, Seremban 104, Banting 116, Port Klang 135, Putrajaya 107 and Shah Alam 101.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good, 51 to 100 moderate, 101 to 200 unhealthy, 201 to 300 very unhealthy, and 301 and above hazardous. Unhealthy API levels may lead to chest discomfort, coughs and shortness of breath.

The API readings are calculated based on five major air pollutants: sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ground level ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter with a diameter below 10 micrometres (PM10).

Most of these pollutants come from various sources such as industries, motor vehicles, open burning and power generation.

The concentrations of these five pollutants are measured in 52 air quality stations throughout Malaysia, mainly located in industrial and urban areas.

A check with the department also showed that except for isolated rain in coastal areas in Sabah, no rain is expected for the peninsula and Sarawak. It has not rained in the Klang Valley in over a week.

#PrayForMH370 - Netizens post messages of hope

 Netizens from around the world have come together with one heart and one mind to pray for the safety of the passengers and crew of the missing MH370 craft and encourage their families to stay strong and wait for good tidings of their loved ones.

There are people sharing information, news articles and stories of affected family members in a global show of solidarity.

Others are sharing uplifting photos and messages of hope.

A photograph that went viral was a sand sculpture by Indian artist Sudarshan Patnaik: a large MAS airplane and faces of passengers made of sand, with the words crafted from blue and red sand, “Pray God – Miracles Do Happen”.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin shared a photo on his Facebook account that drew several thousand “likes” – a drawing of a plane with multi-coloured hands reaching up and the caption, “Please come back”.

He encouraged people to never lose hope.

On Twitter, user @xxxJiDa tweeted “Dear MH370, Where are you? We are waiting for you. Please come back safely,” while @dyanasmd said, “I refuse to be sad coz I rather believe you will come back safe. Come home soon. Can’t wait to hear your stories.”

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak also tweeted, saying “In our time of need, friendship has come in many forms. We will continue our efforts to search for #MH370.”

On Twitter, the hashtags #MH370 and #PrayForMH370 were created to get updates on the plane. They were also used on Facebook and Instagram.

According to – a tool for measuring a hashtag’s popularity - #prayForMH370 had up to 75,000 tweets an hour.

#MH370 had up to 80,000 hourly. A Twitter account was also set up to collect and share information on Flight MH370.

@Dia_Butterfly, who changed her username to “Pray For MH370”, said “Never lose hope. I know you are still out there waiting for our rescue.”

@NDlalala said, “Please come back MH370. We are all waiting for you.”

@__edlnx said: “If it’s missing, return them. If it’s hijacked, let them be safe. If it’s underwater, let them float.”

On Facebook, Malaysians encouraged others not to speculate and wait for the facts.

Ahmad Nizam Radzi wrote, “Thank you MAS and to the other countries. Just ignore some of the insensitive statements from unappreciative people who think they know everything,” on the Malaysian Airlines Facebook page, while a Vietnamese national said his country was trying its best to locate the plane.

“It is the duty of my country,” posted La Hy.

Several Malaysians responded to his comment, thanking him for his support.

Rosnan Fihrin Md Adnan said: “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, our Vietnamese friends!”

Posted on 16:00 | Categories:

#PrayForMH370 - Global focus also on DCA's director-general

While the world’s attention is transfixed on the search for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, all eyes and ears are also centred on Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, who is in charge of one of the largest search and rescue (SAR) operations for a missing airliner in many years.

He was the DCA’s airworthiness director who investigated several cases of aircraft accidents in Malaysia. But this is the first time global focus is on him.

“It is a challenge beyond words. I am always on the phone with authorities from other countries to exchange information.

“There are a lot of (SAR) activities going on in many areas. All must be reported to me,” he said in an interview.

The 56-year-old Temerloh-born engineer, who has led the DCA since 2008, came out strongly against accusations that he was withholding information.

He said updated and verified information was vital for him to plan the next course of action.

“I just cannot announce something without confirming the details with the other authorities. There have been many unverified reports which were later found to be untrue.

“Imagine the consequences if I just picked up these unverified reports and told the whole world about it,” he added.

“The entire world, especially the relatives of the aircraft’s passengers are hanging on to every word I say.

“We are now dealing with an aircraft which has disappeared with many people on board and I’m determined to find out why,” he said.

Journalists covering Azharuddin’s press conference at Sama-Sama Hotel, where the MH370 operations and media centre have been set up, praised his efforts in providing information despite the difficult situation.

The Star’s Putrajaya bureau chief Zuhrin Ahzam Ahmad described Azharuddin as “extremely calm”.

“I’m here for his daily press conferences and he answers questions very carefully. There are many times that he never refers to his notes during the briefings,” he added.

AFP Kuala Lumpur correspondent Shannon Teoh said that Azharuddin seemed to be able to handle the pressure and was well-briefed about the frantic search for the Boeing 777.

Astro Awani broadcast journalist Tan Su Lin said that despite being grilled by the media, Azharuddin did not try to avoid the horde of reporters during the long wait for updates.


Posted on 13:04 | Categories:

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Sort out uncollected rubbish and unlicensed stalls - Kajang residents

Kajang residents are hoping to see improvement in services in the Kajang Municipal Council’s (MPKj) area of jurisdiction now that the councillors have been named.

StarMetro looked into a few problems that had plagued the residents over the past few months, among which are uncollected rubbish and the sprouting of unlicensed stalls.

Uncollected rubbish

Kajang and Bandar Baru Bangi residents had expressed their disappointment with the garbage contractors for not keeping to the schedule.

Uncollected rubbish had accumulated for days and even weeks in some areas.

Taman Muhibbah resident Munirah Hashim, 34, said the rubbish collection contractor had not been consistent in collecting rubbish in the area.

“Sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t. It is as if they have their own schedule and collect the rubbish whenever they feel like it,” she said.

Domestic rubbish collection is scheduled to be collected thrice a week — either on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Munirah said the situation was frustrating because domestic waste from the kitchen would get smelly when not collected for a few days.

“Not only will the smell get worse, stray cats and dogs will rummage the garbage and leave a huge mess behind,” she said.

Munirah hopes the MPKj councillors will work together with the residents to bring up the issues to the council administration.

Taman Desa Seruda residents have had enough with irresponsible people dumping garbage along Jalan Abim. The residents have put up their own signage. This is despite the council having put up similar warning signs there.

A resident, Ahmad Kamal Rashidi 45, said they had organised a gotong-royong a few weeks ago to clean up the rubbish in the area.

“The MPKj warning signboard is not effective, so we had to take the matter into our hands.

“We also cordoned off the area with tape to stop people from dumping rubbish there,” he said.

Jalan Kajang Perdana 8A and 8B Residents Association vice-chairman Mahendran Muthusamy said the residents, who had moved to the residential area about nine years ago, were upset with the council’s services.

“Complaints were made but action was never taken. If at all action was taken, it was only a few months after the complaint was made,” he said.

Mahendran said the residents had organised a gotong-royong to clean up the area themselves.

Mahidah Zakaria, 30, of Bandar Baru Bangi said rubbish collection services recorded its worst “performance” in November and December 2013 and January this year.

“Although the contractor’s contract may be ending, it does not mean they should slack on the job,” she said, adding that MPKj should be more stern with the contractors.

MPKj public relations head Kamarul Izlan Sulaiman said the council had appointed supervisors in key ares to monitor the rubbish collection.

“The amount of rubbish will increase during festive seasons and our landfill in Semenyih has a limit each day. When it reaches the limit, the contractors have to dump the rubbish at the Sepang landfill,” he said.

Consequently, Kamarul Izlan said, the collection schedule would be disrupted.

“However, this excuse is unacceptable. We will take action against the contractors if they fail to collect rubbish more than three times,” he added.

Unlicensed stalls

More unlicensed stalls had cropped up around commercial areas in the Kajang municipality over the past two years.

Business owners and residents of Bandar Mahkota Cheras and Bandar Sungai Long said they included carwash stands as well as burger and fruit vendors.

Bandar Sungai Long resident T.L. Boon said the stalls operating without licences encroached on public parking spaces, taking up grassy sidewalk buffers and landscaped kerbs.

“They occupy parking bays and some have even cemented green spaces reserved for future use, such as for the widening of roads.”

A Bandar Mahkota Cheras Traders Association committee member, who wanted to remain anonymous, said there was already stiff competition among legitimate businesses without having to contend with unlicensed stalls.

“These legitimate businesses pay up to RM3,000 in rent.

“Shopkeepers have complained about the unfairness of competing with makeshift stalls conducting the same type of businesses but did not pay rental or a licence fee,” he said.

He suggested that roadside stalls relocate to a wet market in Bandar Mahkota Cheras, which would be completed in two years.

“Illegal vendors are operating their businesses at junctions and street corners, making it dangerous for motorists and pedestrians.

“We hope MPKj will ensure they conduct businesses in a proper way,” said the committee member.

Speaking for MPKj, Kamarul Izlan said the council would take action against unlicensed stall owners who operated their businesses from a permanent place in commercial areas.

“MPKj will issue compound notices to them, but our main concern is the hygiene level at these illegal stalls,” he added.

Work starts on #water deal draft. #Selangor

Selangor will sign a preliminary agreement with the Federal Government soon to seal the deal on the restructuring of the state’s water industry, said Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

Speaking to reporters after chairing the weekly exco meeting here yesterday, Khalid revealed that the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry would represent the Federal Government in drafting the agreement with Selangor, which would be represented by Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Bhd (KDEB).

According to Khalid, the agreement will spell out the specific details of the restructuring exercise jointly undertaken by Selangor and Putrajaya, including the expected revenue for the state after the exercise.

He also confirmed that the agreement would stipulate that there would not be any tariff increase for the next three years.

“The ministry and KDEB will work together to formulate the draft of the preliminary agreement, which will be signed as soon as possible,” Khalid said, though he stopped short of committing to an exact date for the signing.

On the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on water industry restructuring inked between Selangor and Putrajaya on Feb 26, Khalid said the contents of the MoU would be revealed in a week’s time after the “procedural matters” had been cleared.

Certain quarters, including leaders from Pakatan Rakyat, had criticised Khalid over the MoU, which they claimed lacked transparency and due consultation.

The MoU is believed to allow Selangor to take over the assets of the four existing water concessionaires in the state for a total amount said to be RM9.6bil, while also allowing the Federal Government to proceed with building the Langat 2 water treatment plant that would receive raw water from Pahang via a tunnel.

Meanwhile, Pakatan’s top leadership has remained unequivocal in wanting Khalid to defer the finalisation of the preliminary agreement until he provides a satisfactory briefing to them on the details.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim questioned the seemingly rushed manner in which the MoU was signed.

Meeting reporters after chairing the Pakatan leadership council meeting yesterday, Anwar said that while the Pakatan leadership did not wish to unduly interfere with Khalid’s administration as he had been given the mandate to negotiate the water deal, the Mentri Besar should nonetheless display a more humble approach to doing things.

“It is better we have some humi­lity to be more transparent and to consult the leaders.

“We want him to be more cautious, and we have communicated our view that the briefing must be done before the agreement is signed, or else it will be meaningless,” said Anwar.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Douse that fire, warns DOE. #HAZE

 The Department of Environment is serious about stamping out open burning in this difficult time of haze and drought.

DOE would take legal action over open burning at construction sites, farms or industrial areas, said director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan.

Even lesser open burning cases, such as someone setting fire to rubbish, will not be ignored.

“In such cases, the culprit will be fined,” she said.

The penalty is RM2,000 for the offence.

The DOE activated its Open Burning Prevention Action Plan last month, which provides for these measures.

It had increased its patrols, especially in areas that were identified as fire risks, Halimah said.

“Also, we have issued letters to municipal councils responsible for landfills, urging them to ensure that no burning takes place at these sites,” she said.

Halimah said the DOE would carry out awareness campaigns to remind people to refrain from open burning.

Pollution Monitoring Teams are also being set up among local communities to assist the DOE.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said the DOE had recorded 964 cases of open burning in the past two months.

He said 307 cases had been on agricultural land, followed by small-scale burning (232), bush (209), forest (142), industrial areas (18) and waste disposal sites (18).

“During the same period, the culprits in 84 cases were fined while those responsible in 29 cases were given warning notices,” he said.

The DOE is keeping an eye on haze conditions by monitoring the air quality at 52 stations throughout the country.

The Fire and Rescue Department is also calling for a stop to open burning.

Its director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said peat and bush fires stemming from the dry spell were contributing to the haze.

On top of that, irresponsible farmers, plantation owners and land developers were making the situation worse when they set fires to clear land or get rid of rubbish, he said.

“In the first three days of March, we responded to 462 cases of peat, bush and open fires,” Wan Mohd Nor said.

“Last month there were 9,424 cases, compared to 440 in February last year.”

The firemen are also finding it difficult to do their work due to the water crisis in some states.

“Fighting the open fires was a problem, but now we are also facing the difficulty of putting out structural fires in areas affected by water shortage,” Wan Mohd Nor said.

He said fire-stations also had to deal with multiple cases at a time.

The firemen also get support from other agencies, such as Rela and the Civil Defence Department.

Between 8am on Sunday and 8am yesterday, Johor recorded 89 cases (highest), Kedah 65, Selangor 65, Malacca 56, Perak 52, Pahang 32, Negri Sembilan 31, and Terengganu 23.
Posted on 10:49 | Categories:

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Operation to induce rainfall provides break from heat and haze in Selangor

The Meteorological Department’s cloud seeding operation over Selangor brought a brief break from the stifling heat and choking haze.

The department’s national weather centre director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said yesterday’s operation was to induce rainfall over dams and water catchment areas.

He said cloud seeding had also been planned over parts of Malacca, Negeri Sembilan and Johor but there were not enough clouds there.

“We target rain clouds over or near dams and water catchment areas,” he told The Star.

“Even if the clouds are not directly above the areas, we expect the winds to carry them towards these places.”

Muhammad Helmi said the evening operation was a success because it brought about rainfall in several areas but until late yesterday it was not known if the rain was enough to raise water levels at the dams.

Muhammad Helmi said the operation was led by the department’s atmospheric science and cloud seeding division, using a Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) aircraft carrying four 1,000-litre tanks of water containing 150kg of salt each.

He said the division identified suitable conditions for cloud seeding, based on Sunday’s weather forecast and alerted RMAF to be on standby.

Another round of cloud seeding would be done today provided weather conditions were suitable.

Explaining the process, he said, cloud seeding was a method of inducing rain, and not making rain.

“Salt solution is sprayed at the base of the identified clouds. The particles will be carried upwards by thermals or upward currents of warm air.

“This will form water vapour that will grow in size as it moves upwards until they grow heavy and fall down as rain.

“Through cloud seeding, we are actually accelerating the process of rainfall production as well as increasing the amount of rainfall.

“It takes between 15 minutes to half an hour for rain to fall after the solution has been sprayed,” he added.

Muhammad Helmi said there was a “very narrow window of opportunity” over the past week as the weather conditions kept fluctuating.

He said the winds were also stronger, resulting in low chances of rain clouds being formed.

In SEREMBAN, a downpour in several areas in the state over the weekend brought some relief but did little to replenish supply in the four major dams.

Checks with Syarikat Air Negri Sembilan showed that levels at the Sg Terip, Kelinchi, Talang and Gemencheh dams remained at near critical levels.

The level at the Sg Terip dam, which supplies treated water to households here, was at 100.12m, about six metres above the 94.6m critical mark.

As for the Kelinchi dam, it was at 199.1m (critical level 198.3m) while Talang was at 148.45m (140.5m) and Gemencheh at 99.66m (98m).

All households in the state, however, have continued to receive supply.
The Star

Posted on 15:30 | Categories:

Triple whammy as #haze hits the Klang Valley

 First, it was weeks of a dry spell. Then came the water shortage. Now, Klang Valley residents have to contend with the haze as well.

Despite a brief shower in the evening, yesterday’s air pollutant index (API) reading shot up to unhealthy levels in five places in the Klang Valley with Port Klang registering 136 (API of 100 to 200 is categorised as unhealthy) at 6pm.

The other places include Serem­ban (112) in Negri Sembilan, Shah Alam (101) and Banting (117) in Selangor while Seri Manjung, Perak, recorded 109.

According to the Department of Environment (DOE) website, several areas registered moderate air quality (API 51 to 100) as at 6pm. They were Batu Muda (92) in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya (100) and Kuala Selangor (98) in Selangor.

Other states that recorded moderate to unhealthy air readings included Taiping (100) and Ipoh (83) in Perak, and in Muar, Johor (97), Prai in Penang (94), and Sungai Petani, Kedah (99).

Meteorological Department national weather centre director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said it was not unusual for parts of Malaysia to experience hazy conditions during this time of the year, as it was the dry season due to the end of the north-east monsoon season.

He said, however, that this year’s haze was worse than last year’s and attributed it to open burning, forest fires and peat fires.

“The haze has nothing to do with our neighbours. It is not transboundary haze but our own doing,” he said.

He also said there was neither sufficient rain nor strong winds to help clear or disperse haze particles during long periods of dry weather.

In a statement yesterday, the DOE stated that the current moderate haze that the country is experiencing is due to land and forest fires in several states including Selangor, Perak, Pahang, Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.

The department said that the current hot and dry weather conditions caused suspended dust particles to accumulate in the air, which resulted in haze.

Additionally, the department noted that various pollutant sources such as industrial emissions, motor vehicles and earthworks contributed to the increasing API levels.

The DOE said the peninsula is not expected to receive much rain until mid-March.

“However, rain and thunderstorms can occur in the afternoon and early evening in the interior of Perak, Selangor and Pahang,” it said.

Based on the daily weather forecasts by the Meteorological Depart-ment, the possibility of peninsular Malaysia being hit by transboundary haze is currently low due to the wind patterns.

Monday, 3 March 2014

#HAZE - Unhealthy API readings recorded

Unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings were recorded in several areas in Selangor and Negri Sembilan as folks complained about the hazy sky.

Port Klang saw unhealthy levels of haze for the entire day yesterday, with a final reading of 118.

Seremban recorded an API reading of 111 as of 5pm, while Selangor’s Banting hit 108.

Putrajaya, too, was smog-ridden with a reading as high as 127 in the afternoon. It improved to 112 later.

According to the Department of Environment (DOE), an API reading of below 50 is regarded as good, 50-100 is moderate, 100-200 is unhealthy, 200-300 very unhealthy, and above 300 hazardous.

Other states in Malaysia were in the moderate and good range.

The Meteorological Department’s forecast director, Mohd Helmi Abdullah, said the haze was a normal occurrence during hot and dry seasons.

“It would probably stay on this level until the dry season ends,” he said, adding that the hazy condition was due to fires.

In George Town, the API readings for both Prai and Seberang Jaya at 5pm was at 64.

The DOE monitoring station at Universiti Sains Malaysia recorded 59 at 5pm.

Visibility in Bayan Lepas and Butterworth was at 6km at 7pm.

A DOE spokesman attributed the haze to smoke caused by forest fires on the mainland.

#Dengue cases rise fourfold

Dengue cases have increased by more than fourfold so far this year, as compared with the same period last year.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said as of Feb 28, 18,047 dengue cases and 36 deaths were reported throughout the country compared with 4,250 cases and eight deaths for the first two months of 2013.

“This concerns us a great deal. We are increasing the awareness and steps to eradicate dengue,” he said here yesterday after launching the Jom Hapus programme aimed at wiping out Aedes breeding grounds.

MCA vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, who is the Barisan Nasional candidate for the Kajang by-election, was among those present to lend support.

Dr Subramaniam said the number of cases was higher because of the change in the variation of the dengue virus.

“The current serotype, DEN-2, discovered last year, is more virulent,” he said.

Selangor recorded the highest number of deaths (13), followed by Johor (seven) and Perak, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya that had three deaths each.

Selangor also had the highest number of cases from January until Feb 28 at 9,946 compared with only 1,877 for the same period last year.

This is followed by Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya with 1,697 cases compared to 250, Perak with 1,247 compared with 347 and Johor with 1,148 against 374. Penang recorded 404 cases, as compared with 140 previously.

He said all states recorded a jump in cases.

Dr Subramaniam, who joined in the gotong-royong to help clean the drains and the Taman Seri Jenaris neighbourhood, said civic consciousness among the public needed to be increased.

“We must know what to do and what not to do. Some think that their neighbourhoods are rubbish dumps. They throw rubbish everywhere especially into drains, causing problems.

“The Government can help to clean them but we need the public’s cooperation as well,” he said, adding that stagnant water was the breeding ground for mosquitoes.

He said proper infrastructure, clog-free drains and scheduled solid waste management could help eliminate breeding places.

“It is important for rubbish especially large items to be picked up according to schedule so that residents can plan properly. It also prevents rubbish from being left out in the open for too long.

“All need to play their part, including local councils, the community and those working in construction sites,” he said.

Dr Subramaniam also urged those storing water to cover containers to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.

For those using mosquito sprays or repellents, he said the ideal time to do so was between 6am and 8am and between 5pm and 8pm.