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Jakarta Post

Haze returns to West Sumatra as Malaysians evacuated from Riau

  • Syofiardi Bachyul Jb

    The Jakarta Post

Padang   /   Sat, September 19, 2015   /  03:15 pm

Haze returned to almost all parts of West Sumatra on Friday after thinning for three days following rain over much of the province, forcing the Malaysian government to evacuate its citizens from Riau.

A Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) station in Bukit Koto Tabang, Agam regency, reported that as of 12 p.m. on Friday the air quality in the region was '€˜'€˜unhealthy'€™'€™. The condition worsened until 1 p.m. and persisted as of 2 p.m. although on the previous day the air quality had been reported to be '€˜good'€™.

Station staff member Alberth Nahas said there were two factors that had brought the haze back to West Sumatra.

First, he said, burned land that had caused haze in the southern part of Sumatra was still dry, meaning forest and land fires could not yet be dealt with thoroughly. Second, there might have been differences in air pressure between two air layers close to the surface.

'€œThe difference caused dust particles to be restrained, so we can feel the impacts of haze,'€ Alberth said.

He added that the strong smell from the haze indicated that its source was not far away and that the pollution came from a relatively low air layer.

Budi of Padang Panjang said that haze was thickening in the city, where the pungent smoke could be smelled strongly.

Padang Panjang Health Agency said it had contacted the West Sumatra Provincial Health Agency'€™s laboratory center to monitor the air quality in the city on Saturday. As of Friday, schools in the city remained temporarily closed.

In Pekanbaru, Riau, Antara news agency reported that the Malaysian consulate started evacuating its nationals due to the haze. Consulate staff member Antoni said 120 Malaysians, including 86 students and 10 teachers, were to fly bank to Malaysia on Friday.

'€œThis is an anticipatory measure because the air pollution standard index has exceeded the dangerous threshold,'€ said Antoni, adding that the Malaysians would be transported on board military aircraft from Subang airport, Malaysia.

'€œWe received an order from the Malaysian kingdom to go home because haze in Pekanbaru is very dangerous,'€ said Ahmad Akifahmi, one of the Malaysian nationals waiting to be transported home.

Meanwhile, Central Kalimantan acting governor Hadi Prabowo said he would revoke the licenses of companies proven to have burned land during the dry season, causing haze.

'€œThis has to be done to create a chilling effect,'€ Hadi said in Palangkaraya as quoted by Antara on Friday.

Hadi, who is also a director at the Home Affairs Ministry, gave his assurances that licensing would be tightened in the future to help prevent forest and land fires from recurring in the province.

'€œThat'€™s why in the future every license has to come with the availability of fire fighting facilities including canals, water reservoirs and other equipment,'€ Hadi said.

Separately, the Central Kalimantan Police'€™s special crimes detective director Sr. Comr. Anton Sasono said the National Police'€™s Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim) had deployed 15 investigators to help the Central Kalimantan Police investigate land fire cases.

He said the team would work with the hotspot investigation team in company areas indicated to have been burned.

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