Riau folk seemingly unfazed by doubly thick haze

Riau folk seemingly unfazed by doubly thick haze

PEKANBARU (Riau, Indo­nesia) - The moment photographer Lim Cheng Kiat and I stepped out of our plane at the Sultan Syarif Kassim II Airport here, we were assailed by acrid smoke that burned our eyes and choked our lungs.

Although it was already night, the air was very warm. By the time we got into the bus taking us to our hotel, our eyes were already watery and, despite our face masks, the haze was causing a burning sensation in our noses.

However, other passengers in the bus, who did not even use face masks, seemed unperturbed by the thick and smoky air.

We had just arrived in Pekanbaru from Jakarta at abut 7.10pm Friday to cover the open burning in areas around Riau that is contributing to much of the haze problem in Malaysia in the last week.

Throughout the 7km journey to our hotel along Jalan Jenderal Sudirman in this capital city of Riau, we prayed that we would arrive safely as the visibility was very poor.

Our driver Pak Baharuddin told us that he could hardly see the vehicles in front of him, which were about 10m metres away.

Baharuddin, who has been a driver for 10 years, said locals had expected the haze to come around this time of the year.

"Yes sir, we are used to this smog, there is nothing to worry about," he said.

Arriving at the four-star hotel, we were surprised to see that none of the guests and staff were wearing face masks although the air-conditioned lobby was enveloped in thick smoke. We looked out of place with our face masks on.

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