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Jakarta Post

Thousands suffer from respiratory issues

Rizal Harahap and Jon Afrizal
Pekanbaru/Jambi   ●   Fri, September 26, 2014

Thousands of people in a number of provinces in Sumatra have been suffering from respiratory problems for the last two weeks due to the continuing haze.

Riau provincial Health Agency reported that as of Sept. 25, as many as 2,254 people had been affected by the smog and suffered from acute respiratory infection (ISPA).

The haze has also been blamed for causing 96 others to suffer from asthma, 64 from pneumonia, 187 from skin irritation and 191 from eye irritation.

Head of the agency'€™s disease prevention, control and sanitation division (P4L), Andra S., said the data was obtained from Kuantan Singingi, Pelalawan, Rokan Hulu, Indragiri Hulu, Kampar and Siak regencies and Pekanbaru cities and regencies.

'€œThe number of patients most likely will increase as five other regencies/cities have not yet sent reports on their cases. Besides, the haze is still coming into Riau,'€ Andra said Thursday.

He hoped the authorities in South Sumatra and Jambi would put an end to the forest and peatland fires in their respective regions as soon as possible.

He said hot spots were also still being found in Riau but the condition was not as severe as previously thanks to measures taken by the local administrations to deal with the fires.

He also called on residents in the province to reduce outdoor activities.

Meanwhile, Riau provincial administration secretary Zaini Ismail said that the province still had Rp 7 billion (US$583,576) in emergency response funds that could be spent if the haze worsened.

'€œThe funds can only be disbursed when the governor declares an emergency response status for the haze,'€ Zaini said.

Separately, in Jambi, haze has been covering Merangin regency for the last three days and is worsening. Many have been admitted to hospitals and community health centers (Puskesmas) in Bangko, the regency capital, for respiratory infection.

A staffer at Puskesmas Bangko, Ita Irawati, said her center had recorded 223 patients suffering from respiratory problems this September alone. Meanwhile, Puskesmas Pematang Kandis had treated 786 ISPA patients.

In Jambi city, rain over the region on Wednesday could not disperse the haze. Visibility was limited to only 50 meters in the morning and 100 m in the afternoon.

Haze was also reported to have covered the coastal areas and the marine routes through East Tanjung Jabung waters, limiting visibility to between only 300 and 500 m in the morning and afternoon.

Some fishermen in the area decided not to go to sea.

Meanwhile, in South Sumatra, Palembang municipal Environmental Agency (BLH) head Muhammad Tabrani said, as quoted by Antara news agency that air quality in the region had exceeded the allowed standard, thus, called on locals to wear masks if they conducted outdoor activities.