Smoke paralyses air travel in Papua

Authorities at Rendani Airport in Manokwari, West Papua imposed airspace restrictions on Sunday as thick smoke from land and forest fires reduced visibility to below 2,000 meters.

"A Garuda flight scheduled to fly into Manokwari today has been cancelled. Hopefully conditions improve and planes will be able to land tomorrow," General manager of the Jayapura branch of Garuda Indonesia, Wahyu, told on Sunday. The company informed passengers of the cancellation via text message.

Wahyu explained that smoke began covering the area on Saturday; however, pilots were able to land at the airport during the day. "Today, our flight will not transit in Manokwari. It will fly directly to Sorong and then to Makassar," he said.

Meanwhile, an airport official requesting anonymity said thick smoke had shrouded Manokwari since Sunday morning, forcing several airlines to cancel flights. Only an Express flight from Sorong managed to land in Rendani. 

The head of the Meteorology, Climatology, Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Jayapura, Sem Padamma, said thick smoke covering Manokwari came from several hot spots in areas around Ransiki.

Padamma further said that BMKGJayapura had detected five hot spots across Manokwari on Sunday, namely in South Manokwari and Pegunungan Arfak, which recorded two hot spots each, and one hot spot in Manokwari city.

Padamma said that apart from Manokwari, three other areas in West Papua, namely Bintuni, South Sorong, and the Gulf of Berauw, were blanketed with smoke.

Head of BMKG Jayapura said smoke covering Mosez Kilangin Airport in Timika had begun to recede. "The sky is getting clearer. Hopefully, flights can land at the airport on Monday," he said.