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Jakarta Post

Students stay at home as haze thickens

  • Rizal Harahap and Jon Afrizal

    The Jakarta Post

Pekanbaru/Jambi/Jakarta   /   Tue, August 30, 2016   /  06:46 am
Students stay at home as haze thickens Air pollution -- Thick smoke from forest fires in Riau forces the Bengkalis Education Agency to close schools on Monday. (Courtesy of the Riau Land and Forest Fire Post’s air task force/-)

As haze caused by forest and land fires thickens in Riau, a local administration has given holidays to school students.

According to the Riau forest fire emergency unit, the air pollution standard index (ISPU) reached 364 as of Monday morning, far above the 200 level that is already considered “very unhealthy”.

In the province capital, Pekanbaru, haze has deteriorated air quality to 162. In other cities such as Kampar, Dumai and Rokan Hilir, the air quality reached 144, 166 and 184, respectively, reducing vision to only 500 meters.

“Actually all students attended class this morning, but then there was an instruction from the Bengkalis Education Agency urging us all to go home,” the principal of Mandau state high school SMAN 7, Masrida, in Bengkalis regency, Riau, told reporters on Monday.

Masrida said the decision was made for the time being and would be evaluated in the next few days.

“If the weather gets better and the haze starts to disappear, we will restart our classes next Wednesday. Otherwise, we may prolong the closure to avoid health problems.”

Bengkalis Education Agency acting head Heri Indra Putra said the decision was taken following instruction given by Regent Amril Mukminin.

“[School] closures will vary in each area, depending on the haze,” Heri said, adding that teachers would still require students to do homework.

In Dumai, the level of air quality hit 369 on Sunday, a highly dangerous level. However, related authorities had yet to issue a circular to free students from school.

“We are still waiting for instruction from the Dumai Environment and Forestry Ministry office,” Dumai Education Agency spokesperson Misdiono said.

Riau Education Agency head Kamsol urged affected areas to take quick action in preventing illness from inhaling the dangerous haze.

“The provincial government cannot fully monitor air pollution in every area,” he said, demanding better coordination between the regions.

The week-long haze covering Bengkalis has sparked fear as more than a hundred residents have begun suffering acute respiratory infections (ARIs).

To prevent escalating numbers of people suffering respiratory problems, the Riau Health Agency has distributed 10,000 face masks to affected areas. “We will also intensify our campaign [to inform people] of the dangers of the haze,” Jon said.

He said that according to reports from related institutions in Bengkalis, 149 people had been affected by haze-related health problems, with 132 of them suffering ARIs.

He added that four people were suffering asthma, one person an eye irritation, while 12 other people were diagnosed with pneumonia.

According to data published by the Riau Health Agency last year, 100,234 people suffered from the haze, with 84,203 of them diagnosed with ARIs, 1,321 suffered pneumonia and 3,872 contracted asthma. Those who suffered eye and skin irritations numbered 4,771 and 6,067, respectively.

Meanwhile, according to the Batanghari Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) in Jambi, there were eight hotspots found in the region since January, with blazing fires to 12.8 hectares of forest.

National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho claimed on Monday that this year’s haze would not be worse than last year when 32,734 hotspots were recorded, saying that in the same period this year, the agency detected only 12,884 hotspots. (fac)

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