S'pore needs a miracle

The Indonesian Forestry Ministry says it has mobilised cloud-seeding crew to induce rainfall from the clouds, but notes that the process would take around two weeks. It says the country does not have an immediate need for assistance from other countries as Indonesia has "adequate funds and equipment to counter the flames."

INDONESIA - And that miracle is rain.

Indonesia forecasts rain on June 28, he said.

Should the rain occur, Mr Hadi said, it would mark the end of a 10-day cyclone that had caused the wind to blow to Singapore and Malaysia, reported the Jakarta Post.

He said: "We have considered creating artificial rain to put out the fires, but that would take two weeks. So we've decided to leave it in the hands of nature. And let's just pray for that.

"If there is no downpour then the haze could last for weeks, or even months, as we try to generate artificial rain."

Despite the difficulties, Mr Hadi said the ministry did not see any immediate need for assistance from other countries, saying that Indonesia had "adequate funds and equipment to counter the flames".

Five companies

Earlier, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said he had identified five companies behind the forest fires, but refused to name them, reported the Jakarta Post.

But later, a Reuters report quoted a government official as saying that eight companies, including Sinar Mas and Asia Pacific Resources International (April), were responsible for the fires.

"The majority of hot spots in Riau (province) are inside April and Sinar Mas concessions," senior presidential aide Kuntoro Mangkusubroto told Reuters.

Sinar Mas is listed on the Indonesian and Singapore stock exchanges. April's headquarters is in Jakarta but has an office in Raffles Place, reported Channel NewsAsia.

The environment minister declined to name the rest of the companies.

"But regarding whether we have contributed to the fires or not, we have to assert that we practice a 'no-burning' policy. The forest is so big that anyone could burn it without being caught," company's spokesman, Djarot Handoko told the newspaper. Indonesia also deployed aircraft yesterday to artificially create rain.

At a late-night emergency meeting, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered disaster officials to "immediately mobilise all the country's resources" to extinguish the fires on Sumatra island that have created vast palls of smoke.

Indonesia's national disaster agency said that three helicopters carrying cloud-seeding equipment, which chemically induces rain, had been sent to Riau province, where vast swathes of carbon-rich peat land are burning.

Two planes were also there and the agency planned to send another five, said agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

The aircraft would use cloud-seeding and also water-bomb the blazes, he said.

Firefighters on the ground have struggled to put out the blazes, which are burning under the surface of the peat.

Emergency workers tackling blazes in Bengkalis district, the worst hit area, were "overwhelmed" and unable to cope, Mr Ahmad Saerozi, the head of the natural resources conservation agency in the province, told AFP.

"We have been fighting fires 24 hours a day for two weeks," he said.

 

Mr Saerozi said the fires were mostly in peat that was 3m to 4m-deep.

"It is still burning under the surface, so we have to stick a hose into the peat to douse the fire," he said.

"We take one to two hours to clear a hectare, and by then another fire has started elsewhere.

"The sea breeze is also blowing the fires to other areas." Extra personnel from the conservation agency, the local government and palm oil plantation employees had been drafted in to help tackle the fires, he said.


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Singapore's haze on June 19
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: AFP, Reuters, ST, TNP, Andrew Lim)
For more photos, click here.
Netizens share pictures of and jokes about the haze
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: Twitter, ST, Stomp, Sin Chiew Daily, BH, AsiaOne)

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