Sumatra sees jump in fire hotspots

Sumatra sees jump in fire hotspots
A resident attempts to put out a fire spreading in a plantation area in Dumai district, Riau province located in Sumatra island on March 3, 2014.

The Pekanbaru chapter of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) says hotspots from forest and land fires have continued to spring up in provinces across Sumatra as, unlike in parts of Java that are still having rain showers, most areas of Sumatra have entered a dry period.

Data collected by the Pekanbaru BMKG from the Terra and Aqua satellites showed that 67 hotspots were detected in Sumatra on Monday, 26 of which were in Riau, while 20 others were in North Sumatra. Hotspots also sprang up in Aceh and West Sumatra, which were two areas previously free from hotspots, but had reported eight and seven hotspots respectively. Meanwhile, South Sumatra reported six hotspots.

"We identified only 15 hotspots in Sumatra yesterday. The jump in hotspots occurred because of low rainfall on the island," Pekanbaru BMKG analyst, Yudhistira Mawaddah, said on Monday.

He said in Riau, a Sumatran province most susceptible to land and forest fires, hotspots had spread from seven to 12 regencies and municipalities.

Based on the agency's last observation report, Rokan Hilir has the highest number of hotspots, which reaches seven. Other hotspots are spread over six areas, comprising Bengkalis, Dumai and Pelalawan, which have five hotspots each, Siak, which has two hotspots, and Indragiri Hulu and the Meranti Islands, which have one hotspot each.

"The number of hotspots in Riau has grown by more than 100 per cent as of yesterday, when only 12 hotspots were detected, which were spread in four regencies," said Yudhistira.

He further explained the satellite reports indicated with a 70 per cent likelihood that 13 of the total hotspots in Riau were fires. Four fires were located in Rokan Hilir, followed by Dumai (with another four), Bengkalis (with two) and Indragiri Hulu, Meranti and Pelalawan, which had one fire each.

Yudhistira said areas affected by land and forest fires had not yet experienced smog, although hotspots there continued to spring up.

He said the visibility in four observation spots was within a range of between 5 to 7 kilometers, or still in a category of normal.

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