Thick haze produced by ongoing land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan has blanketed several cities on the two major islands for the past few days, creating potential health problems for local residents and a series of flight delays at local airports.
In Padang, the West Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) has called on regional administrations in the province to anticipate the potential health issues created by the haze.
The head of the agency's prevention division, Rumainur, said the density of the haze in Agam regency, for example, was recorded at 153 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3) on Tuesday at 9 a.m. and increased to 173 ug/m3 an hour later. Meanwhile, in Dharmasraya regency, the haze density was recorded at 170 ug/m3 on Monday.
'According to the air pollution standard index [ISPU], these numbers indicate that the air in the regions is now at an unhealthy level,' Rumainur told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
According to the ISPU, a haze density level between 101 and 199 ug/m3 is categorized as 'unhealthy', while between 200 and 300 ug/m3 is 'very unhealthy' and over 300 ug/m3 is 'dangerous'.
The Jambi Environmental Agency has also declared the air in the province to be unhealthy.
'The air quality here is very bad,' agency head Rosmeli said on Tuesday.
Data at Jambi's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) office showed that 320 hotspots were detected in the province on Tuesday, 124 of which were found in East Tanjung Jabung regency.
Local authorities in many parts of the country, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan, have been struggling to put out massive land and forest fires over the past few months due to this year's prolonged dry season.
In Pekanbaru, thick haze also continued blanketing the Riau provincial capital, decreasing visibility to around a kilometer.
Riau Health Agency official Jon Kenedi said that 5,737 local residents had suffered from haze-related diseases in July alone. Of them, 4,885 suffered from acute respiratory infections (ISPA), 591 from skin irritations, 274 from eye irritations, 146 from pneumonia and 141 from asthma.
In Batam, Hang Nadim International Airport reported that several flights heading to the airport had been canceled on Tuesday morning due to haze.
Among the canceled flights were Citilink flight QG 930 from Palembang, South Sumatra, and Lion Air flight JT 957 from Medan, North Sumatra.
In Central Kalimantan, Palangkaraya's Tjilik Riwut Airport head Usman Effendi told Antara news agency that haze had also caused delays to the departure and arrival of a number of flights, including Lion Air flight JT 671 heading to Jakarta and Garuda Indonesia GA 550 flight from Jakarta.
Usman said thick haze had blanketed the city from 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Tuesday, reducing visibility to only 500 meters. The standard minimum visibility for safe landing and take-off at the airport was 700 meters, he said.
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