The Jakarta Post
Overwhelmed with peatland fires in three villages in Bukit Batu district, Bengkalis regency, Riau, the local administration is calling upon the central government to immediately dispatch assistance to help it tackle the disaster.
Bengkalis deputy regent Suayatno said the fires, which burned hectares of rubber and palm oil plantations and bushes in Sepahat, Tanjung Leban and Bukit Kerikil villages, had been raging since March 1.
'Fire fighting teams have tried to extinguish the fires for three months, but the fires in Bukit Batu district this week are much more terrifying than before,' Suayatno told journalists on Tuesday.
'Frankly speaking, Bengkalis can no longer bear the situation. This is beyond our capacity,' he added.
Suayatno said a concentrated effort was needed to deal with the fires because if there was no rain in the three days ahead, the fires would spread. The cloud of smoke would also continue to worsen, triggering protests from neighboring countries, he went on.
According to Suayatno, the administration's Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) and Bengkalis fire fighting agency had dispatched all personnel to extinguish the fires.
'Even personnel from the Public Order Agency [Satpol PP], the police, the Society Concerned about Fires (MPA) and extinguishing teams from several private companies have been involved in the operation, but the fires continue to spread due to strong wind and very dry weather,' said Suayatno.
He said inadequate equipment and difficulties in obtaining water sources had slowed efforts.
'The fires and smoke clouds can be categorized as a national disaster. We urge the National Disaster Mitigation Agency [BNPB] to immediately send assistance,' Suayatno said. (ebf)
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