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    Feb 12, 2014

    Early start to haze in Indonesia this year


    THE haze season may be prolonged this year, amid signs that farmers have started the annual burning season earlier than usual.

    Farmers in Sumatra and Kalimantan, faced with unusually dry weather over the past few weeks, have been clearing their land by burning.

    Flights in Pekanbaru, Riau and Palembang, South Sumatra, have been delayed this week due to low visibility amid the thick haze.

    The number of hot spots in Sumatra more than doubled yesterday to over 450, from about 190 a day earlier, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite.

    The air pollutant index in Dumai, the epicentre of the haze last year, soared to a hazardous 449 yesterday morning.

    Winds above central Sumatra are blowing away from Singapore and the Malaysian peninsula at the moment, said disaster mitigation agency BNPB's head of data department, Mr Agus Wibowo.

    BNPB head Syamsul Maarif, citing reports from provincial heads, said: "Most of the fires were not accidents."

    Local officials from eight provinces affected by the haze have called on the Indonesian government to begin water-bombing operations, The Straits Times reported.

    Mr Syamsul told The Straits Times: "Learning from last year's experience, we don't want to be late this time round."

    The agency is also gearing up for an especially hot and dry season, starting in April.