Indonesia sends soldiers into the fray
INDONESIA is sending over 3,000 emergency workers, including soldiers and police officers, to fight forest fires in Sumatra. The fires have been blamed for the thick haze affecting neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore.
Indonesia's national-disaster agency said yesterday that more than 3,000 emergency workers would be sent over the next two days to Riau province, where the fires are centred.
There are already about 2,300 people on the ground, tackling the blazes and providing support to those affected, said agency head Syamsul Ma'arif.
They are being backed by helicopters and planes dropping water and attempting to chemically induce rain through cloud-seeding.
But agency official Agus Wibowo said from Riau that aerial efforts to fight the blazes were proving ineffective, so the agency was shifting its focus to "sending more men to the affected areas to fight the blazes on land".
Firefighters are resorting to sticking hoses deep into the ground to tackle fires burning the carbon-rich peat under the surface, which is a time-consuming process.
The haze has drifted north along Malaysia's western coast, with pollution reaching record levels in Singapore last week.
Some areas of Malaysia were classed as "very unhealthy" or "hazardous" yesterday. Port Klang in Selangor state recorded an Air Pollutant Index (API) of 484 by noon, according to the Department of Environment. An API reading above 300 is considered "hazardous".
The haze forced the opening ceremony for Malaysia's 13th Parliament to be held indoors yesterday, the first time that has happened.
The customary inspection of the guard of honour by the Malaysian King was held at the banquet hall of the parliament building.
In Dumai city in Riau, where visibility has deteriorated to just 150m to 200m and residents have been advised to limit outdoor activities, hundreds gathered to perform special prayers calling for rain.