Jakarta hit as haze crosses Java Sea
JAKARTA residents were told by the government yesterday to be prepared for haze coming from the forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, while Singapore urged Asean members to take decisive action to end the air pollution which has been troubling the region.
"I have instructed hospitals to stand by (for haze-related cases)," the Tempo online newspaper quoted Denny Wahyu Haryanto, head of the Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency, as saying yesterday.
"Smoke has covered the sky of Jakarta since Friday," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the National Disaster Management, reported the Detik online news portal.
Mr Sutopo added that the provinces of Banten, West Java, East Java, Bali and Nusa Tenggara would also be wholly or partly shrouded in haze.
Earlier on Saturday, Mr Sutopo has warned that a thin haze was spreading across the Java Sea to Jakarta due to wind conditions.
As of last evening, visibility in Jakarta has slightly declined, although the capital's air quality remained "healthy", reported Detik.
Meanwhile, Central Kalimantan province, where the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) rose to more than 2,400 over the weekend, is urgently seeking oxygen cylinders from the central government to be distributed to haze-choked residents, reported Tempo.
Residents are also being evacuated from Palangkaraya, the provincial capital. The air pollution there peaked at 1,682 yesterday, dropping to 518 at 5pm. In Indonesia, any index reading above 350 is considered hazardous.
Indonesia has confirmed that 10 people had died from haze-related causes - some were firefighters killed directly by the blazes while others had succumbed to respiratory illnesses or medical conditions exacerbated by the pollution.
The haze over southern and central islands of Philippines also thickened yesterday, causing six flights to be cancelled and hospitals put on alert.
Pilots flying in the central city of Cebu could see only 8km ahead, said government weather observer John Agbay, adding visibility was also reduced on the western island of Palawan, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
The haze has affected Thailand too, besides Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Singapore yesterday urged fellow Asean members to take "firm and decisive action" against the haze, ahead of the Nov 19 Asean summit to be held in Kuala Lumpur.
"Singapore will work closely with other Asean countries to fully operationalise the Asean Haze Monitoring System, and other cooperative initiatives," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement.
This came a day after Singapore troops and firefighters returned from Sumatra where they joined an international effort in combating forest fires.
The agenda of the 10-nation summit has not been made public, but diplomatic sources say the haze is likely to be raised by member countries affected by the pollution, AFP reported.
The MFA said Singapore will pursue legal action against "errant companies responsible for the haze" and called on Indonesia to respond to "our repeated requests to share information" on the firms.
Paper and palm oil firms have been blamed for deliberately setting off fires to clear land for cultivation.
The haze and reduced visibility are expected to persist in Singapore today, and the conditions might deteriorate if denser haze is blown in from Kalimantan, the National Environment Agency said in an update at 6pm yesterday.
The air quality for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the mid to high sections of the unhealthy range.
The number of hot spots detected in Sumatra and Kalimantan yesterday was three and 212 respectively.