government finally declared a state of emergency in Riau starting on Friday following
worsening haze from forest fires in three regencies and municipalities
in the province.
The haze is from forest fires in the regencies of Bengkalis and Rokan Hilir and Dumai City.
'The President has instructed the National Disaster Mitigation Agency [BNPB] to take over fire extinguishing efforts in Riau, starting on Friday,' the BNPB emergency response director Tri Budiarto said on Friday.
The agency said it had deployed two helicopters on Friday to spray water from the air and one aircraft for cloud seeding efforts in the burning areas, starting on Saturday.
Riau Deputy Governor Mambang Mit added that cloud seeding efforts would be the last solution because the conventional techniques had met difficulties extinguishing the fires.
'The weather conditions, which are very dry and windy, and the locations of fires, which are inaccessible to vehicles, have slowed efforts to put out the fires. The only solution is cloud seeding,' he said.
He said that the Riau administration was currently investigating the involvement of some firms in the forest fires.
He did not deny the fact that in the previous years a number of plantation companies made use of the dry weather to clear their areas for planting.
'The authorities will take strong measures against them if there is enough evidence,' he said, adding that the legal process would be handled by the police.
According the data from the Forestry Ministry, the total areas gutted by the fires have reached 3,709 hectares in 10 out 12 regencies and municipalities in Riau, where Rokan Hilir and Bengkalis have been the most heavily affected. ( hrl )