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Jakarta Post

South Sumatra gives up on haze despite help

  • Ansyor Idrus

    The Jakarta Post

Palembang   /   Thu, October 16, 2014   /  10:23 am

The South Sumatra administration seems to be losing hope as all its efforts to resolve the haze emitted from its land have been fruitless.

'€œThe only hope is asking Allah for rain,'€ South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin told reporters in Palembang on Wednesday.

Alex admitted that his administration was overwhelmed and had given up trying to extinguish fires on 7,000 hectares of peatland in nearby Ogan Komering Ilir regency, which were producing the haze that had blanketed Palembang.

He said it would need rain for seven consecutive days to douse the fires in the peatland.

Thousands of residents performed shalat istisqa (Islamic prayer to ask for rain) on Tuesday in a desperate effort to tackle the haze. Hours after the prayer, light rain reportedly fell in several areas in the city, slightly reducing the density of the fog.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has deployed nine helicopters to extinguish a number of forest fire points on peatland across the country.

'€œThe choppers have been deployed to water bomb hot spots which are difficult to reach for the Manggala Agni fire-fighting unit,'€ said BNPB chief spokesman Sutopo Purwo in Jakarta on Wednesday.

He added four helicopters had been deployed to South Sumatra, three to Central Kalimantan and one each to Riau and West Kalimantan.

BNPB has also conducted cloud seeding to create artificial rain to minimize the number of hot spots.

'€œWe have carried out several measures, including weather modification, direct fire fighting and water bombing from aircraft,'€ said Sutopo.

He added that to overcome the forest and peatland fires, the BNPB and the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) had seeded clouds in Kalimantan on Sept. 18 and in South Sumatra on Sept. 21 from an Air Force Hercules aircraft.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) had also deployed 2,200 personnel, backed by 1,050 police personnel, to assist the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) and Manggala Agni to fight the fires in September.

Meanwhile the Bengkulu Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) forecaster, Diah Novita Astuti, said on Wednesday the haze covering the city for the past three days was still categorized as safe for people'€™s health.

However, she added, members of the public had been urged to remain vigilant by wearing masks if they wished to be outdoors.

Diah said in general the weather in the next three days would be cloudy followed by light rain.

'€œLight rain is possible, especially in the west of Bengkulu province. Currently, visibility in Bengkulu city stands at 1,500 meters as the haze is being carried by wind from the east,'€ she added.

Diah said the haze had originated from South Sumatra because no hot spots had been found in Bengkulu.

'€œIt'€™s normal for Bengkulu to receive haze from other areas,'€ she added. The haze in Bengkulu city is affecting visibility and respiration.

'€œI have sensed the presence of the haze for the past five days. I have given my children masks to wear when they go to school,'€ said Bengkulu city resident Usman.

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