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Sumatra, Kalimantan still covered by haze

Haze continued to blanket a number of provinces in Sumatra island and Central and South Kalimantan, amid a prolonged drought.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Terra and Aqua satellite detected 234 hotspots in Sumatra on Tuesday, indicating forest and peatland fires in several provinces on
the island.

“Based on satellite images as of 5 a.m. on Nov. 4, the number of hotspots amounted to 234,” Pekanbaru BMKG station head Sugarin said via text message to Antara news agency in Pekanbaru, Riau.

He added that the highest number of hotspots was monitored in South Sumatra, with 194, followed by Jambi (13), Bangka Belitung (11), Lampung (10) and Riau (six).

Three hotspots were also detected in the regency of Bengkalis, two in Pelalawan and one in Meranti
Islands.

The haze has affected visibility in a number of regions in Riau. Pekanbaru city, Rengat, Dumai and Pelalawan were covered by haze and reported limited visibility in the morning.

The haze caused visibility in Pekanbaru to drop to 500 meters in the morning, while the visibility in Pelalawan was 600 meters, Rengat (800 meters) and Dumai city (1,000 meters).

Meanwhile, South Sumatra BMKG reported that the hotspots in the province were located in Ogan Komering Ilir, Banyuasin, Muara Enim and Ogan Komering Ulu regencies. Of the four regencies, Ogan Komering Ilir had the most with 54 hotspots.

Earlier Palembang BMKG observation and information head Agus Santoso forecast that rainfall in South Sumatra would be very light; between 100 and 200 millimeters was expected in November and over 200 mm in December.

In Jambi, the haze had returned and covered a number of regions in the past few days, despite having previously dissipated due to rain.

Jambi BMKG forecaster Bahar Abdullah said visibility at 6 a.m. was down to 800 meters, but was gradually improving.

  • Haze still blankets provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan
  • South Sumatra expecting only light rain in November
  • Central Kalimantan extends emergency status until Nov. 10

“At noon, the weather improved and visibility reached up to 2,300 meters,” said Bahar.

Riau Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo said the province needed more babinkamtibmas [police officers assigned to villages as advisors on security and public order] who could help minimize crimes and detect forest fires.

“Ideally, a village should have one babinkamtibmas,” he said, adding that the province, which has 1,775 villages, only had 500 babinkamtibmas.

Separately, Antara reported that the Central Kalimantan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) had extended the emergency response period until Nov. 10.

“The decision to extend the emergency status was issued by Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang as of Nov. 1,” said Central Kalimantan BPBD head Muchtar in Palangkaraya on Tuesday.

He said the extension was based on a recommendation from the BMKG, which predicted the drought would continue in Central Kalimantan.

Muchtar said 38 hotspots had been recorded in the province. According to him, the dense haze over the past several days in Palangkaraya city was due to forest and peatland fires in Pulang Pisau, Katingan and East Kotawaringin regencies.

The location and condition of peatland in the three regencies means it tends to dry out quickly and become highly combustible.

“The BMKG has also forecast that the rainy season cannot be guaranteed to arrive in the next two weeks, so we hope every party will be alert and anticipate the fires,” said Muchtar.

On the other hand, Kotawaringin Timur regent Supian Hadi denied that the dense smog originated in his regency, claiming that a higher number of hotspots was detected in other regencies in Central
Kalimantan.

He said the number of hotspots in his administration had declined during the past few days, leaving small-scale peatland fires with little smog.

“We will keep trying to put out the fires to reduce the smog,” he said.

The haze was still covering Banjarmasin city in South Kalimantan as of Tuesday morning.

Local resident Muhammad Noor, 57, expressed hope that rain would fall to minimize the effects of the haze.

“When will it rain? It is already November when rain usually starts falling,” he said.

Dense haze also blanketed Banjarmasin’s Syamsudin Noor Airport in Kota Banjarbaru and led to the delay of five scheduled flights.

“Five scheduled flights were delayed by between 30 minutes and one hour,” said airport services section head Heru Widiatmo at state airport-management company PT Angkasa Pura I in Banjarbaru on Tuesday.

He said that previously the airport had been free from flight disruptions for only a month.

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