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Jakarta Post

Labuan Bajo wildfire traps dozens of tourists for 5 hours at local dive resort

  • Djemi Amnidu, Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie

    The Jakarta Post

East Nusa Tenggara, Jakarta   /   Fri, August 14, 2020   /   01:59 pm
 Labuan Bajo wildfire traps dozens of tourists for 5 hours at local dive resort A wildfire engulfed the Wae Wuul Nature Reserve on the evening of Aug. 13, 2020 in West Manggarai regency on the western coast of Flores Island in East Nusa Tenggara province. Members of the local police and the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency were able to contain and extinguish the fire by around midnight. No casualties were reported. (Courtesy of Humas Polres Manggarai Barat/-)

A fire broke out on Thursday at around 7 p.m. local time to engulf the Wae Wuul Nature Reserve in Labuan Bajo of West Manggarai regency, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), trapping dozens of visitors who were staying at a local diving resort.

West Manggarai Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Bambang Wibowo said on Friday that authorities were able to extinguish the flames that had trapped the guests at the CN Dive Resort located in the nature reserve. 

“There are no casualties from the incident [...]. We managed to contain the fire after two hours,” he told The Jakarta Post.

Nurul Hayati, a diver who was staying at the resort, said that she saw the fire heading in the direction of the resort at around 7 p.m. She said that officers from the West Manggarai Disaster Mitigation Agency arrived at around 12 a.m. to put out the fire with help from people at the resort, and that the police arrived at around 3 a.m.

“We were already at the beach preparing to evacuate in case things didn't go so well,” Nurul told the Post on Friday by text message.

She said that the fire started to die down around 12 a.m. because of the rocky cliffs surrounding the resort, but that the flames had reached an area about 100 meters from the resort before they were contained.

Bambang said that the fire broke out in four locations in the nature reserve. Two hot spots were reachable by land while the other two were reachable only by sea. He added that the hot spots and the subsequent forest fire did not spread to Komodo Island.

The Wae Wuul Nature Reserve is on the westernmost coast of the island of Flores, which is about 46 kilometers to the east of Komodo Island, separated by Rinca Island. 

The police chief further elaborated that he split his team of officers from the West Manggarai Police as well as the East Nusa Tenggara water police and mobile brigade into two units. The units then tackle the fire from the sea and on land, with Bambang leading the marine unit and his deputy leading the ground unit.

“[There are many] shrubs in the area that can easily catch fire in the dry season. We are still investigating whether [the cause of the fire] was cigarette butts or local residents burning thatch,” said Bambang, and that wildfires were frequent during the dry season due to the highly flammable vegetation. 

He added that he would coordinate with the local fire department and forest agency to organize regular patrols of fire hazard zones.