Haze: 3-day downpour clears the air over Kalimantan and Sumatra

People having dinner at a restaurant near Kahayan river in Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan, on Oct 29, 2015, as residents enjoy clearer skies after many days of choking haze.
People having dinner at a restaurant near Kahayan river in Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan, on Oct 29, 2015, as residents enjoy clearer skies after many days of choking haze.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Three consecutive days of rainfall over Kalimantan and Sumatra starting on Tuesday (Oct 27) have resulted in clear skies and cleaner air in the two regions.

Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said on Friday that the number of hot spots, which caused the haze that has blanketed parts of South-east Asia, had fallen after the heavy downpour.

As a result, both air quality and visibility have improved, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said during a briefing at the BNPB headquarters.

"With the rainfall for three consecutive days in Sumatra and Kalimantan, the hot spots have been significantly reduced," added Dr Sutopo, who is also the agency's head of data and information.

As of 5am on Friday, there were only 156 hot spots in Sumatra, down from thousands recorded at the height of the crisis. In Kalimantan, there were four - three in East Kalimantan and one in the south.

A week ago, South Sumatra had 703 hot spots and Kalimantan had 905.

The improved visibility was a relief for the local aviation industry which had to deal with thousands of flight cancellations and delays due to the haze.

Visibility in Pekanbaru, Riau, was as far as 3,000m, while Jambi in Central Sumatra was 1,400m. Palangkaraya in Central Sumatra saw 1,200m despite hazy conditions, while Banjarmasin in the south was as far as 2,500m.

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings, the gauge of air quality, also fell across the board in most cities affected by the haze.

In Palembang, South Sumatra, PSI hovered under 200 in the morning before peaking at 258 at noon. The index peaked at 430 on Thursday.

Shoppers at Pasar 26, a traditional market, were relieved as the air quality improved.

"The market is always open and sees crowd regardless of how bad the haze is," said 51-year-old Saiful who sells fish crackers. "Only now people have more relaxed faces."

The PSI reading for Pekanbaru never rose above 77 and as of noon, it was as low as 38.

In Jambi, where President Joko Widodo was visiting on Friday after cutting short his trip to the United States, PSI peaked at only 154 and then fell to 20 at noon.

Palangkaraya, for most of the day, remained under the 116 PSI level, the moderate range. It was a vast improvement from the four-digit readings that for weeks were the norm for the city in Central Kalimantan.