Prolonged haze disrupts flights, schools

Prolonged haze disrupts flights, schools
A boat passes next to the Ampera bridge as thick haze blankets in Palembang. Indonesia's parliament agreed to ratify a regional agreement on cross-border haze as fires ripped through forests in the west of the country, choking neighbouring Singapore with hazardous smog.

PALEMBANG - Thick haze paralysed Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II International Airport in Palembang, South Sumatra from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Sunday, forcing airlines to delay the departures of 14 flights.

"Visibility was a mere 100 meters due to the haze. That was why many airlines delayed their flights for safety reasons," acting general manager of state-run airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II, Huzain Achmadi, said in Palembang on Sunday.

He said that prior to 6 a.m., only two flights had managed to depart from the airport. Meanwhile, an Air Asia flight from Malaysia was unable to land at the airport and was redirected to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport near Jakarta.

Huzain said during the recent spate of peatland and forest fires in the province, the airport experienced flight delays almost every day,

The haze has also affected schools in Palembang. On Sept. 27, the Education, Youth and Sports Agency in Palembang city issued a circular to school headmasters, ordering them to cut school activities by one hour with the school day starting 30 minutes later and finishing 30 minutes earlier.

"Our school usually starts at 7 a.m., but we now start at 7:30 a.m. We will also tolerate students who come late because the haze can be so thick," teacher Leni Apriani at state elementary school SD 95 said on Sunday.

She said many parents who used motorcycles to drop their children at school had to drive more slowly due to the density of the haze. Leni said the new schedule policy would continue until the air quality improved.

Palembang city's Health Agency has revealed that as of September, the number of patients suffering from acute respiratory infections (ISPA) had reached 20,157, up by around 2,000 from August. The data was collected from 39 community health centers (puskesmas) in 16 districts in the city.

"Children between one and five years of age predominate among the patients," Afrimelda, head of the health control division at the agency, said.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) recorded 150 hot spots in Sumatra, 144 of which were located in South Sumatra, three in Riau province, three in Jambi province, two in Riau Islands province and one in Aceh.

"The wind is blowing from the southeast to the west and from the southwest to the north, so it [the haze] will not spread to Singapore," the agency's spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement on Sunday.

He said the air pollutant index tools in Riau province indicated a very unhealthy level of air quality at 7 a.m. on Sunday.

The agency also reported that haze overshadowed many areas in Kalimantan as 220 hot spots were spotted in Central Kalimantan, 26 in West Kalimantan, 61 in South Kalimantan and 50 in East Kalimantan.

Antara news portal reported that in Batam, Riau Islands, a number of flights at Hang Nadim International Aiport were also delayed or cancelled due to the thickening haze.

The executive director of the South Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Hadi Jatmiko, blamed weak law enforcement for the forest and peatland fires in the province.

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