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Indonesia seeks help from S'pore and others

CHOKING: Face masks are donned in a classroom in Palembang, Indonesia, to protect against air pollution. The country has agreed to accept international help to combat fires cloaking South-east Asia in haze.


    Oct 09, 2015

    Indonesia seeks help from S'pore and others


    INDONESIA'S President Joko Widodo said yesterday that his country has requested help from Singapore, Russia, Malaysia and Japan to help put out fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan that have sent choking haze across the region for weeks.

    "We have asked for assistance and we have received help from Singapore," Mr Joko said after visiting a mass rapid transit construction site in Jakarta, reported news portal Detik.

    He added that the aircraft from Singapore and Russia would help douse the fires that often smoulder underground for weeks in peat deposits.

    Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post late on Wednesday that his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi had "indicated that Indonesia will now take up our offer".

    Singapore has offered to provide Indonesia one C-130 to artificially induce rain, a Chinook helicopter to carry out water-bombing, and a civil defence team to help fight the blazes.

    According to a Facebook post last night by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, the Chinook was on standby awaiting Indonesia's approval to take off.

    Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also told My Paper last night that it is awaiting further details from its Indonesian counterparts before the aircraft and team can leave.

    "Up to two C-130 aircraft will be on standby to provide further support," a spokesman from the ministry added.

    Indonesia had earlier declined offers of outside help - including from Singapore - to tackle the haze, which is mostly caused by companies using fire to clear land for plantations.

    Jakarta has deployed about 25,000 firefighters and aircraft, but the effort seemed to have been overwhelmed by the extent of the blazes, reported Agence France-Presse.

    "What we need now are planes that can carry 12 to 15 tonnes of water, not like the two to three tonnes we have now," Mr Joko said.

    "We hope this will speed up the process, because fires on peat land are different from regular forest fires."

    Indonesia was also in talks with Australia and Malaysia about how they might help, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir.

    "We have been using all our resources but what we see is our progress is not quick enough," Mr Nasir told Reuters, adding that Indonesia was exploring what roles the countries could play and what equipment they could provide.

    Mr Nasir also insisted the help from some countries was "not a handout", as Indonesia would pay for the services.

    The haze has pushed up pollution to dangerous levels across parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and southern Thailand, disrupted flights and caused schools to close on bad days.