S'pore starts water bombing in Sumatra
A CHINOOK helicopter from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has arrived in South Sumatra province to help Indonesia douse forest and peatland fires that have been sending choking haze across the region, according to Indonesia's top agency battling the disaster.
The Chinook, which is equipped with a 5,000-litre heli-bucket, would operate with six helicopters and two aircraft from Indonesia as well as a Bombardier aircraft from Malaysia, said the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) in a statement.
They would concentrate on water bombing fires in the regencies of Ogan Ogan Ilir and Banyuasin, said the statement, while a local Casa aircraft would focus on rain making.
The pilots and crew were briefed on where and how they would be deployed as well as the safety measures, it added. Singapore's Chinook would be engaged in the operation until Oct 23.
In a Facebook post last night, Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said water-bombing operations involving the country began in Palembang yesterday. He added that conditions were difficult "because of the thick smoke that affects visibility".
The Straits Times reported yesterday that the SAF sent a Chinook, two C-130 transport planes and a 34-strong team to Indonesia on Saturday. Together with the group is a six-man Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart) from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, said the Ministry of Defence.
The Dart officers would execute the dropping of water from the heli-bucket to extinguish the fires.
There were 726 hot spots in Sumatra and 182 in Kalimantan yesterday, according to a Twitter post by Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for BNPB.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo last week requested help from its neighbours, including Australia, as well as China, Japan and Russia, to help put out the fires, which have driven air quality in Singapore and Malaysia to hazardous levels at some point.
Indonesia plans to extinguish all the hot spots across the country within two weeks, reported Bloomberg.