Emergency situation extended as haze blankets Indonesia cities

Emergency situation extended as haze blankets Indonesia cities
This picture taken in Ogan Ilir shows an Indonesian firefighter walking on farm land where fire was raging in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra.

Haze again blanketed cities in Sumatra and Kalimantan on Monday, including Palembang, which decided to extend its emergency status.

"The emergency response operation apparently ended on Oct 31, but as the forest and peatland fires continue, we extended the period until the middle of this month," said South Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Yulizar in Palembang on Monday.

The BPBD has submitted a request to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to send additional planes for weather modification as it has faced difficulties in putting out the fires in several regions where hotspots were detected.

Consequently, the BNPB will dispatch an Air Force Hercules plane based in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan on Nov 4.

"The Hercules will replace the Casa 212-200, or PK-PCT, from Pelita Airways because it is able to carry four tons of salt for cloud seeding, while the Casa can only carry a ton of salt," said Yulizar.

He revealed satellite images in October had detected 2,420 hotspots in Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency, which was experiencing the most hotspots in the province. Forest and peatland fires have not ceased despite water bombings by helicopters.

As of Oct 31, South Sumatra had also received assistance in the form of an air tractor aircraft that can carry as much as 3,000 liters of water.

"The aircraft had carried out nine sorties with a total of 27,000 liters of water," said Yulizar.

Meanwhile, the Palembang Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency (BMKG) observation and information head Agus Santoso said that the wind direction indicated the haze would reach Singapore.

"The haze could cause havoc in neighbouring countries. It has reached Jambi as of now and caused incoming flights to Jambi to be diverted to Palembang," he added.

Agus said rain had not fallen in South Sumatra over the past few days because of air pressure from the northeast, and the Nori storm from the Philippines would keep the area dry over the next five days, after which the weather would be cloudy with the normal potential for rain.

"Despite the rain, we predict it will be sporadic and light in nature. The Nori air pressure will gradually travel inland and cause light rain in Muba, Banyuasin, and Ogan Ilir. On Nov 7, we forecast light rain at the Muba-Banyuasin border," said Agus.

He predicted rainfall would be very low, between 100 and 200 ml in November and above 200 mm in December. "The conditions are like that of 2006," he added.

Separately, the Palembang office of state airport management firm PT Angkasa Pura technical division head Tamzil said the haze had interrupted flights since last Saturday.

"On Monday flights were postponed until 9 a.m.," said Tamzil.

Three flights served by Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air and Sriwijaya Air were delayed and hundreds of passengers were stranded at the airport.

So far, he said, the lowest visibility was recorded at 200 meters during the haze in October and 1,000m of late.

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