Forest fires spark emergency in parts of Indonesia

JAKARTA • Riau and South Sumatra, two provinces on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, have declared an emergency alert over land and forest fires as the regions enter the peak of this year's dry season.

Two regencies - Siak in Riau and East Kotawaringin in the Central Kalimantan province-have also declared an emergency alert, the Environment and Forestry Ministry's land and forest fire control official, Mr Radian Bagiyono, said.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency earlier estimated that some fire-prone regions in Sumatra and Kalimantan would face the peak of the dry season between July and August, although the rest of the archipelago would see the season's peak only in August.

"Some regions have passed the first phase of the (wildfire) crisis from February to April. They're now bracing for the second phase, which will last between July and October," Mr Radian said on Tuesday, as quoted by news site kompas.com. "Since the peak of the dry season will fall during the second phase, we should be extra careful and prepared to face the fires."

Based on the ministry's observations in the first six months of the year, there was a 40 per cent decrease in the number of hot spots compared to the same period last year.

This year, there were 892 hot spots where there was a more than 80 per cent chance of a fire breaking out, compared to 1,493 hot spots last year.

Mr Radian said wildfires razed 38,772ha of land from Jan 1 to May 31 - a drop of about 15 per cent compared to the 45,836ha razed in 2019.

In Riau, forest and land fires had raged across several areas in Pelalawan and Dumai regencies since Sunday. The authorities and private firms, including forestry company Sinar Mas, deployed dozens of personnel and five helicopters to put out the fires, which they managed to do after two days.

Dumai Manggala Agni (Forest Fire Control Brigade) head Ismail Hasibuan said firefighters were working towards cooling down the peat to prevent another fire from breaking out at the surface.

This year, there were 892 hot spots where there was a more than 80 per cent chance of a fire breaking out, compared to 1,493 hot spots last year.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2020, with the headline 'Forest fires spark emergency in parts of Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe