Visibility levels in Sumatra and Kalimantan have decreased sharply as haze blanketed various parts of the islands and neighboring Singapore and Malaysia over the weekend.
In South Kalimantan, the cities of Banjarmasin and Martapura were blanketed by haze caused by forest fires.
According to state news agency Antara, visibility levels in Martapura stood at 200 meters, but it was even lower in the area closer to Banjarmasin.
“The haze was very thick and visibility was very limited as it was not even 10 meters,” Martapura resident Asyam said on Monday (29/08).
Forest fires in Riau spread smoke across a large part of Sumatra, with light haze spotted in Pekanbaru, Dumai, Rokan Hilir and Bengkalis.
“The smoke in Bengkalis is thick enough that citizens are beginning to fall ill,” said Jon Kenedy of the Riau Health Agency.
In Dumai, pollution levels were described as “hazardous” with an air pollution index of 369, resulting in a Pelita Air flight having to be diverted to Pekanbaru’s Sultan Sharif Kasim II International Airport.
“The Pelita Air flight had to be diverted to Pekanbaru as it was unable to land in Dumai due to the smoke,” Pekanbaru airport duty manager Bambang said on Sunday.
On Monday, the northern Malaysian town of Tanjung Malim in Perak recorded an unhealthy air pollution index of 119, with indices in several areas in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya nearing unhealthy levels, local media outlet Malay Mail Online reported.
According to Bloomberg, Singapore’s air pollution index stood at “very unhealthy levels” on Friday, with the Singaporean government advising its citizens to reduce prolonged outdoor activities.
Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said this year’s peatland and forest fire handling is much better compared to last year, with a 61 percent decrease to 12,884 compared to last year.
“We must keep a close eye and look out for potential fires until September in the provinces close to the equator, such as Riau, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
Sutopo added that forest fire handling has improved this year thanks to the collaborative efforts of the central and regional governments and corporations to extinguishing the fires. Hotspots detected on Monday stood at 138 points, with 60 percent of them in the Riau region.
Fires were also reported in North Sumatera’s Samosir district, where it destroyed 2,400 hectares of forest and agricultural land. Sutopo said the Samosir district head did not declare an emergency despite the blaze continuing to spread.
“This area burnt between June and Aug. 20, but last Saturday it flamed up again,” Sutopo said. “The Samosir Disaster Management Agency has asked the Samosir district head to declare a state an emergency.”
He added that the fires are occurring in a newly expanded area of the district.