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With 18 hotspots detected, Sumatra braces for forest fires

JAKARTA — Indonesian authorities warned people in Sumatra to be on the alert for forest and land fires as 18 hotspots were detected yesterday morning, the highest number this year.

Return of haze in Indonesia? Reuters file photo

Return of haze in Indonesia? Reuters file photo

JAKARTA — Indonesian authorities warned people in Sumatra to be on the alert for forest and land fires as 18 hotspots were detected yesterday morning, the highest number this year.

The Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Ketaping office’s observation and information section head Budi Iman Samiaji said there will be less rainfall over Sumatra, especially in its western part, with temperatures forecast to reach 34°C during the day with a humidity of 50 per cent.

As such, there is high possibility that forest and land fires could occur, he said. Ketaping province is located in Western Sumatra.

Already, several regencies such as the eastern part of Limapuluh, parts of Sijunjung, the central and eastern parts of South Pesisir and the eastern part of South Solok are experiencing land and forest fires. These areas are located in Western Sumatra, facing the Indian Ocean.

Sijunjung Police Chief Senior Commander Dody Pribadi encouraged residents be on the alert for any possible fires.

“We urge the people and (logging) companies to avoid forest and land fires,” Jakarta Post quoted him as saying.

According to the Association of South-east Asian Nations Specialised Meteorological Centre, the number of hotspots in Sumatra rose from two on Monday to nine on Tuesday.

BMKG Pekanbaru head Sugarin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said satellites detected 18 hotspots yesterday morning, with seven in Riau province alone.

Other hotspots were detected in West and North Sumatra.

“Five of the hotspots in Riau show strong indication of (forest or land) fires,” Antara news agency quoted Mr Sugarin as saying, adding that the five hotspots were at Rokan Hulu, Bengkalis and Kuantan Singingi regencies.

Haze caused by Indonesian farmers who burn forests to clear their land for agriculture is an annual occurrence that sends smog wafting northwards to Singapore and Malaysia.

In late 2015, Singapore, as well as Malaysia and parts of Thailand, suffered a severe haze that affected tens of millions of people, forcing schools to close and causing thousands to fall sick across the region.

Last week, there were fears that the transboundary haze could return after up to seven hotspots were detected in several regencies in Riau.

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry has said it will dispatch helicopters to Riau and Kalimantan to help maximise ongoing efforts to prevent and control land and forest fires. AGENCIES

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