Monday, August 28, 2006

FAX responds to Bario woes Airline to send food supplies tomorrow

MIRI: Food supplies will be flown to people living in the remote Bario highlands in northern Sarawak from tomorrow.

The Transport Ministry, responding to the plight of these people, has granted permission to Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) to operate special cargo flights into interior destinations twice a week.

FAX chief executive officer Raja Mohd Azmi Raja Razali said the airline would start the cargo delivery services this week.

“FAX will offer the cargo delivery every Tuesday and Friday to supplement the existing daily passenger services.

“We heard about the plight of these rural people and we sought permission to operate both passenger and cargo delivery services from the Transport Ministry and the relevant federal authorities, and they have responded positively and swiftly,” he said.

Some 2,000 people and more than 600 students in various settlements in the Bario highlands, some 400km inland from here, had sent an SOS to the state government last week after their food, medicine and diesel supplies ran out.

MAS used to operate passenger and cargo flights before it handed over all the rural air routes to FAX on Aug 1.

FAX was initially authorised to ferry passengers who could take only 10kg of luggage on boardthe 19-seater Twin-Otter and 15kg on the 50-seater Fokker aircraft.

Now, FAX will be able to operate combi-flights to all its destinations, especially to remote settlements that are accessible only by air, said Raja Azmi.

While FAX will be able to fly in food, medical supplies and household necessities, diesel will still have to be ferried by land.

“We are unable to fly in diesel because it is highly flammable. The safety regulations imposed by the Department of Civil Aviation prevent such materials to be on board our aircraft,” Raja Azmi said.

Previously, MAS was also not allowed to carry fuel on board its flights and diesel was flown in by a specially chartered cargo skyvan belonging to aviation company Layang Layang. That service is no longer available.

Sending diesel to the remote areas is a major challenge for the Sarawak government because most of the highland settlements do not have road links.

Source: The Star

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