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Jakarta Post

Immediate evacuation ordered

  • Hans Nicholas Jong and Nani Afrida

    The Jakarta Post

JAKARTA / PADANG   /   Sat, October 24, 2015   /  06:00 pm
Immediate evacuation ordered

The government is gearing up for a massive evacuation of haze victims in Sumatra and Kalimantan following an order from President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo, who said to prioritize the evacuation of babies, children and people vulnerable to worsening air quality.

During a Cabinet meeting on Friday, Jokowi ordered ministers to immediately evacuate haze victims.

'€œAdd more evacuation areas equipped with air purifiers, especially for children and babies,'€ Jokowi said on Friday.

Following the instruction, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Panjaitan convened another meeting on Friday to discuss details about the evacuation operation, which is expected to start on Saturday.

'€œTomorrow, the team will assess which locations are suitable to set up shelters. We will also prepare air purifiers for schools, hospitals and other public spaces so that people can breathe fresh air inside a closed room.'€ Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Puan Maharani said after the meeting.

Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa said the government was focusing the evacuation process on seven provinces affected by the haze; Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and East Kalimantan.

'€œThere are some regions that we have decided to turn into evacuation areas based on our assessment,'€ Khofifah said on Friday.

Besides shelters, the government also planned to use government-owned buildings for evacuation purposes, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Willem Rampangilei said.

'€œWe are working with regional governments to take inventory of buildings or rooms that we can use,'€ he said.

Also joining the evacuation operation will be the Indonesian Navy, which will deploy two Landing Platform Dock (LPD) type warships that could be used to house haze victims from Sumatra and Kalimantan.

'€œWe will provide the ships as temporary shelters, particularly for children and toddlers, until [the situation] improves,'€ Indonesian Navy spokesperson Commodore M. Zainuddin said in Jakarta on Friday.

The two warships are KRI Banda Aceh and KRI Dr. Suharso, which also serve as hospital military ships.

KRI Banda Aceh will drop its anchor in Palembang, South Sumatra, while KRI dr Suharso will be deployed in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan.

Zainuddin said that the naval evacuation would start if the air pollution standard index (ISPU) reached a hazardous level and there were no other alternative solutions.

'€œWe will focus more on evacuating children. We will discuss details of the operation with the health and social affairs ministries,'€ he said.

Other than the evacuation order, Jokowi also instructed Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar to implement a total moratorium on peatland exploitation in Indonesia, as the government believed that the mismanagement of peatland was behind the annual forest fires.

'€œImmediately restore peatland, review old permits. We have to be strict now. Those [peatland areas] that have not been opened yet cannot be opened,'€ Jokowi said.

Siti said that her ministry would carry out the instruction immediately given the severity of the problem.

'€œOf course we will. It'€™s true. No more permits can be issued and no more peatland areas can be opened,'€ she said.

The government will also seek more foreign assistance to tackle the haze by inviting France and Canada to discussions on how to extinguish fires on peat land.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said that Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi had spoken with the Canadian and French ambassadors to Indonesia on the possibility of sending experts to Indonesia to aid in mitigation efforts.

'€œDuring a recent coordination meeting at the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister, we discussed seeking out expertise to help us extinguish fires that continue to burn underneath peatland,'€ Arrmanatha said after an Indonesia-Australia bilateral meeting in Padang, West Sumatra.

Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that Australia remained committed to assisting mitigation efforts, despite having recalled the Hercules aircraft it dispatched earlier.

'€œ[The Hercules airplane] was here for a week and did about 22 runs dumping about 300,000 liters of water over the affected area, and we also had a plane that carried out a number of reconnaissance flights over the affected area,'€ Bishop said.

'€” Tama Salim contributed to this report from Padang

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