Indonesian forest, peatland fires create far-reaching haze

Worsening haze caused by forest and peatland fires on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan continued to hamper activities on land and water Saturday.

Fires burning mostly on islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan

Worsening haze caused by forest and peatland fires on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan continued to hamper activities on land and water Saturday.

Data from Indonesian government showed the level of PM10, particulate matter up to 10 micrometres in size, was recorded at 1,832 micrograms per cubic metre in the morning in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan Province. Visibility was less than 50 metres.

Bad air quality due to forest fires has plagued the town in central Indonesia for a month. Shops in the hazy town were mainly closed, as locals stayed indoors, and military distributed face masks to residents on the streets.

Frustrated by the haze, local residents urged the government to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

Haze from forest and peatland fires hangs over the Batanghari River in Jambi, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. (Reuters)

"I hope the authority will resolve the haze problems like how they did in the last few years, using water bombing. Most importantly people should come first," said Surya Jaya.

In the province there were 179 hotspots, and Palangrakaya is the worst hit area with 61 hotspots.

The officer in charge of the operation said they have been working around the clock to put out fires.

"We have the capacity (to put out fire) and we work with people from the society, as well as other organizations like police and disaster management agency. We've been working around the clock," said Brigong Tom Moenandaz.

Brigong added so far there is no plan to evacuate the Palangrakaya area.

Schools, sports venue closed

On Friday, Singapore closed primary and secondary schools because of deteriorating air quality while flights were disrupted in Malaysia.

On Thursday, Singapore Sports Hub, which includes an outdoor stadium and an aquatic sports centre, suspended all outdoor activities. Fast-food restaurants announced they had halted delivery service because of the worsening pollution.

Slash-and-burn agriculture in neighbouring Indonesia has blanketed Singapore in a choking haze for weeks, and the air quality has worsened since Wednesday night. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called for strong action against anyone caught lighting fires to clear forested land.

In Palembang on Sumatra island, low visibility on a busy river, Musi River, prompted locals to exercise extra caution on Saturday.

Local authorities have deployed a navigation ship, which is stationed on the river, to provide boat traffic information.

"This navigation boat is monitoring the traffic on Musi River all the time and communicate with the people by providing them information on how to ensure a safety practise on Musi River," said Raymond Sianturi, the captain of navigation ship docked at the wharf.

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