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Indonesia chokes on smoke from 1,100 forest fires JAKARTA - More than 1,100 forest fires burning in central Indonesia have enveloped the region in a choking haze that's reduced air quality and delayed flights, officials said yesterday. Bush fires have sent smoke billowing over large parts of Indonesia's Sumatra and Kalimantan islands in recent months, and the cloud has also spread to neighboring Malaysia.
Meteorologist Ahmad Hidayat said satellite images show 610 fires burning in central Kalimantan and 502 in south Kalimantan. ``The hot spots are spreading,'' he said. Air quality in both countries has dropped. Malaysian officials have warned that the problem -- which has occurred sporadically since 1997 -- is hurting regional tourism. ``The haze causes harm to citizens' health and the smell from the haze disturbs our activities,'' said Hidayat, speaking from the central Kalimantan city of Palangkaraya. ``As a result, we've distributed face masks to schoolchildren and residents who ask for them.''
Commercial flights into Banjarmasin have been delayed since Thursday as visibility dropped below 500m, said Lalu Sukaresi of the city's airport authority. In 1997-98, fires set mainly on oil palm plantations and farms in Indonesia's Sumatra and Kalimantan provinces burned out of control for weeks, destroying 10 million hectares and blanketing Singapore and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia with thick smoke.
Economic losses from those fires topped US$9.3 billion and prompted a 2002 agreement among six of the 10 ASEAN members to fight fire pollution. However, Indonesia has yet to ratify the pact. Indonesia's central government has expressed concern about the fires, but insisted it was up to regional governments to handle the matter. The regional governments in turn complain they have no money to fight the fires.



Posted in Forest fires @ 05 September 2004 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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