Friday 9 December 2016

Thousands of troops sent to fight smog-causing fires in Indonesia

Published 11/09/2015 | 09:21

An Mi-17 helicopter dumps water on a burning forest at Ogan Komering Ulu area in Indonesia's south Sumatra province REUTERS/Beawiharta
An Mi-17 helicopter dumps water on a burning forest at Ogan Komering Ulu area in Indonesia's south Sumatra province REUTERS/Beawiharta
An Mi-17 helicopter collects water from a canal to be used on a burning forest at Ogan Komering Ulu area in Indonesia's south Sumatra province REUTERS/Beawiharta
An Mi-17 helicopter pilot flies over a burning forest at Ogan Komering Ulu area in Indonesia's south Sumatra province REUTERS/Beawiharta
An aerial view of smoking rising from a burning forest at Ogan Komering Ulu area in Indonesia's south Sumatra province REUTERS/Beawiharta
An Mi-17 helicopter dumps water on a burning forest at Ogan Komering Ulu area in Indonesia's south Sumatra province REUTERS/Beawiharta

Indonesia said it will send more than 10,000 troops to fight fires in southern Sumatra, as smoke makes thousands sick, delays flights and pushes air quality to unhealthy levels in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.

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Indonesia has vowed before to end the seasonal fires but has failed each time to stop the so-called "haze", caused by slash-and-burn clearances on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, where large areas of forest concessions are held by pulp and paper and palm oil companies.

Indonesian troops will be sent to the provinces of South Sumatra and Jambi, two of the main hotspots, Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said.

If necessary, the agency would also send in additional helicopters to help water-bomb fires.

"We have mobilized national resources to put out the fires," newly appointed BNPB chief Willem Rampangilei said in a press release.

South Sumatra, one of the main centres of the fires, has alone reported 22,585 cases of acute respiratory tract infections since Friday.

An aerial view of a burning forest at Ogan Komering Ulu area in Indonesia's south Sumatra province REUTERS/Beawiharta
An aerial view of a burning forest at Ogan Komering Ulu area in Indonesia's south Sumatra province REUTERS/Beawiharta
An aerial view of smoke rising from a burning forest at Ogan Komering Ulu area in Indonesia's south Sumatra province REUTERS/Beawiharta
An Mi-17 helicopter dumps water on a burning forest at Ogan Komering Ulu area in Indonesia's south Sumatra province REUTERS/Beawiharta
Aerial view of housing complex near Musi River as the haze blankets over Palembang, Indonesia's south Sumatra province REUTERS/Beawiharta
A man wearing a mask for protection against the haze as he waits at a polling station during the general election in Singapore REUTERS/Edgar Su

Early on Friday, Singapore's Pollutants Standard Index rose to 248, which categorises the air as "very unhealthy", or one level below the index's highest air pollution category of "hazardous".

Singapore, which was voting in a general election on Friday, advised citizens against strenuous outdoor exercise.

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