The Jakarta Post
Despite efforts by local authorities to put out forest fires in several areas in Sulawesi and Java, the disaster has continued to expand over the past few days, burning down local estates and threatening the lives of residents.
In Tolitoli regency, Central Sulawesi, forest fires in the Ogodeide district have spread to clove plantations owned by locals and burned down more than 7,000 clove trees in the Kamalu and Buga subdistricts.
'Local residents initially considered the fires as regular so they did not try to extinguish them,' acting Tolitoli Regent Adijoyo Dauda said on Wednesday.
Adijoyo said residents realized the actual magnitude of the fires after learning that they had quickly burned down dozens of hectares of forest and plantations.
The fires, as of Wednesday, had razed some 400 hectares of forest and plantations, where residents also grow cacao, coconut and durian trees, he added.
In the neighboring Donggala regency, fires also reportedly burned residents' plantations in a number of subdistricts in the Sindue Tobata district.
Fires have also spread to parts of the forest on Mount Simpuledo, Donggala, and razed several plantations near the area, where cacao, nutmeg, banana and teakwood trees were grown.
The fires, according to Donggala Deputy Regent Vera Laruni, have also been approaching residential areas.
'People have been working hand in hand to extinguish the fires using whatever means available. Their efforts, however, yielded almost nothing as many farms and plants have been burned down by fires,' she said.
Meanwhile in Gorontalo, fires that have been burning since last week have also burned down 150 ha of clove plantations in North Gorontalo regency, damaging at least 6,000 ready-to-harvest clove trees.
North Gorontalo Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) emergency section head Nurdin said the fires had been triggered by a land clearance burn carried out by a local farmer, identified as Y, a resident of Sumalata district. 'The suspect has been detained at the Sumalata Police office,' he said.
Meanwhile, in Central Java, local authorities on Wednesday finally managed to rescue 20 hikers who were trapped on Mt. Lawu by a forest fire on the slopes of the volcano, located at the border of Central Java and East Java.
The hikers were found after authorities deployed around 300 volunteers in a joint search and rescue mission earlier this week.
'They all survived, although many of them ran out of supplies,' state-owned plantation company PT Perhutani Lawu's spokesperson Eko Susanto said as quoted by tribunnews.com.
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