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Riau fires burn through 848 hectares of land, haze continues

Indonesia’s disaster-management agency reported on Wednesday that at least 848 hectares of land had been left depleted of forest cover and charred by fires that have burned with increasing intensity over the last week.

“The land [disaster] task force reported that 848 hectares have been burned,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of National Disaster Agency, as quoted by the state-run Antara news agency on Wednesday.

The government in Riau has declared an alert after the air quality dropped into hazardous levels. Fires sent acrid pollution into residential areas in Riau, increasing the risk of respiratory infections and the onset of asthma.

According to the BNPB, there were 143 hot spots detected on Tuesday — most of which were concentrated in Rokan Hilir district.

Sutopo said that the aerial task force was dropping water from helicopters and sending air force planes into the worst-affected areas to seed clouds for artificial rain.

Around 700 officers from military and police were working with officers from the forestry ministry and volunteers from Riau’s Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Forest fires are frequently caused by local people burning patches of forest cover in order to open up the land for agricultural use — most commonly for palm oil plantation.

“Many people and groups are still intensively burning the forest causing an increase in the number of hot spots,” Sutopo said.

Meanwhile, West Kalimantan also continued to by affected by forest fires and hotspots. Some 268 were detected on Tuesday.

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