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Jakarta Post

Rain comes, but haze remains

  • Rizal Harahap and Syamsul Huda M. Suhari

    The Jakarta Post

Pekanbaru/Gorontalo   /   Fri, September 18, 2015   /  06:09 pm

The rain that has poured over several regions across Sumatra and Kalimantan over the last two days has failed to significantly lower the intensity of the haze that has blanketed the fire-scorched parts of the country. Despite the rain, the haze continues to disrupt the activities and movement of local residents, and has disrupted operations at local airports.

'€œHaze at destination airports, especially in Pekanbaru, Jambi and Medan, has yet to dissipate significantly, and some flights are still being cancelled,'€ said Suwarso, head of Hang Nadim Batam International Airport'€™s general affairs division, in Batam on Thursday as quoted by Antara news agency.

The haze that has blanketed Hang Nadim for the past two weeks has caused a total of almost 100 flights to have been cancelled.

Similarly, state-run airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II'€™s Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport said that airline companies serving routes to Pekanbaru had rescheduled their flights due to haze from forest and land fires in Sumatra.

In Pontianak, students from state-run senior vocational high school SMKN 5 and state-run Islamic senior high school MAN 2 Pontianak were rushed to Anton Soedjarwo Bhayangkara Hospital on Wednesday after falling unconscious while attending classes.

One of the students, Lady Planeta of SMKN 5 Pontianak, said the haze had been relatively thick when they began class at 8 a.m. Some 20 minutes later, the thick haze started to enter the classrooms, causing the students to faint, one after another.

'€œWe complained of sore throats. We coughed and couldn'€™t breathe, and then we fainted,'€ said Lady.

In response to the deteriorating situation, President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo has repeatedly pledged to take stern legal action against all parties, including forest concession owners, deemed responsible for land and forest fires.

In Pekanbaru, PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo (LIH) general manager Frans Katihokang was arrested by Riau Police'€™s special crimes detective (Reskrimsus) directorate after being grilled for six hours in relation to the fire on the plantation company'€™s 533 hectare concession in Pangkalan Gondai subdistrict, Langgam, Pelalawan regency.

Apart from PT LIH, some 10 other plantation companies in Riau are also thought to have been involved in, or to have neglected to properly deal with, fires on their respective concessions.

Meanwhile, at least 20 hectares of protected forest in North Dulamayo, Telaga Biru district, Gorontalo have been razed by fire.

'€œWe'€™ve had difficulties in extinguishing the fire due to strong winds,'€ Yosef Talawo, a local forest ranger, said on Thursday.

Yosef said his office monitored the movement of the fire, but he and his fellow fire-fighters were under-resourced, under manned and, at present, unable to overcome such a difficult challenge.

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