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Jakarta Post

Haze from fires disrupts air travel in North Sumatra

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Fri, February 21, 2014   /  08:37 am
Haze from fires disrupts air travel in North Sumatra Deserted: Smog from forest fires in the neighboring province of Riau blankets Kelok Sembilan, a mountainous holiday resort known for its spectacular green valleys and winding roads in Limapuluhkota, West Sumatra, on Thursday. The haze has been blamed for the decreasing number of tourist arrivals in the area. (Antara/Iggoy el Fitra) (Antara/Iggoy el Fitra)

Deserted: Smog from forest fires in the neighboring province of Riau blankets Kelok Sembilan, a mountainous holiday resort known for its spectacular green valleys and winding roads in Limapuluhkota, West Sumatra, on Thursday. The haze has been blamed for the decreasing number of tourist arrivals in the area. (Antara/Iggoy el Fitra)

A number of small airports in several North Sumatra regencies have been closed or seen their operations disrupted due to haze caused by land and forest fires over the past few days.

State-run airport management company PT Angkasa Pura II reported that one of the airports affected by the haze was the Ferdinand Lumban Tobing Airport in Pinangsori, Central Tapanuli regency. The airport, located on the western coast of North Sumatra, has been closed since Wednesday.

The company'€™s spokesman Ali Sofyan said a regular flight route from the Kuala Namu International Airport near Medan to the Pinangsori Airport had been cancelled.

'€œBased on a report from Pinangsori, the airport is still closed due to poor visibility,'€ Sofyan said on Thursday.

Sofyan, who is also airport service manager at Kuala Namu Airport, said it remained unclear when the Pinangsori airport would resume operations.

Meanwhile, Medan branch air navigation general manager Susanto said visibility at Silangit Airport in North Tapanuli regency was only 2,000 meters. According to him, the visibility was below the normal level so wide-body planes from Kuala Namu Airport did not want to risk landing at the airport.

'€œToday, the Silangit Airport remains open despite the haze and so far most flight activities are running smoothly,'€ he said, adding that only Wings Air flights were not servicing Silangit Airport.

Information and data section head at the Medan Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency (BMKG) Mega Sirait said among the airports affected by haze in North Sumatra were Pinangsori (Central Tapanuli), Aek Godang (South Tapanuli) and Silangit (North Tapanuli). He said the haze was caused by forest fires in various areas of North Sumatra, such as Mandailing Natal, South Tapanuli, Labuhan Batu, Asahan, Dairi and Karo regencies.

In Jambi, a fire has razed peatland measuring 7 hectares, located in the community forest in Kumpe Ilir district, Muarojambi regency. The fire has yet to be extinguished as of now.

The cause of the fire remains unclear.

Muarojambi Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head M. Zakir confirmed the fire.

'€œI'€™m still in the field with my staff members. The fire has diminished and we will continue to fight it,'€ he said.

Forest and peatland fires have also spread in West Tanjungjabung regency. As of now, 19 hectares are covered with forest and peatland fires, the smoke from which has covered the regency.

West Tanjungjabung Forestry Office head H. Erwin said fires had been detected in the three districts of Betara, Bram Itam and Pengabuan.

To prevent the fires from spreading further, Erwin added that his office would deploy teams of forest rangers in the fire-prone areas.

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