Zero hot spots in Riau: Disaster agency

An Indonesian National Mitigation Agency helicopter conducting a water bombing mission in Kampar, Riau province on Aug 30, 2016.
An Indonesian National Mitigation Agency helicopter conducting a water bombing mission in Kampar, Riau province on Aug 30, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Indonesian firefighters have successfully put out all the land and forest fires raging in Riau province in the island of Sumatra, restoring visibility and air quality in the region to a "good level".

The country's Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that satellites have detected 156 hot spots across the country this morning (Aug 31), but "there are no hot spots in Riau".

"The land and forest fires which had previously emerged in Riau region had been extinguished," he said. "Satellite observations and aerial patrols did not show any burning. Thin smoke was still rising from the burned locations previously."

Dr Sutopo said that the government has been working continuously to subdue the blazes, leading to "encouraging results" and a "significant" drop in the number of hot spots.

 
 

Seven aircraft are carrying out waterbombing and cloudseeding operations, while firefighters on the ground continue to spray water over the burnt peatland and intensify patrols in the residential areas, forest and farms.

In West Kalimantan, 48 hot spots were detected, mostly from land-clearing activities but the condition is "generally good".

Dr Sutopo said that the authorities have arrested 576 people suspected to have set fires illegally.

"This is the challenge on the field. People still burn the lands to open up their farms," he said.

Haze from fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra returned in recent weeks, prompting fears of a repeat of last year's crisis, which sent air pollution levels to a record high and affected millions of people in the region.

Air pollution hit crisis levels in several districts in Riau in recent days, forcing some schools to suspend classes since Monday.

But yesterday, heavy rainfall across Indonesia provided much-needed respite to those affected by the thick smoke from forest fires burning across Sumatra.