Indonesia's central bank evacuates families of staff in West Kalimantan due to haze

Cars and motorcycles are seen on a bridge as haze shrouds Pekanbaru, in Indonesia's Riau province, on Sept 30, 2015.
Cars and motorcycles are seen on a bridge as haze shrouds Pekanbaru, in Indonesia's Riau province, on Sept 30, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Indonesia's central bank has evacuated the families of its staff in West Kalimantan, as haze from Indonesian forest fires reached hazardous levels on the island.

Bank Indonesia paid for the families in Pontianak, in West Kalimantan province, to move to the coast further north, where sea breezes and air conditioning reduced the effect of the smoky air, said Dwi Suslamanto, the head of Bank Indonesia in West Kalimantan.

Suslamanto has been calling Bank Indonesia headquarters in Jakarta to stock up on supplies such as clean drinking water.

"We can't rely on human effort to manage this disaster," Suslamanto said. "Our only hope is for the rain, and for the people who started the fires to not repeat what they did."

Pollution from the burning of Indonesian forests has been worst felt in Borneo and Sumatra, shutting schools and leading to increased respiratory illnesses, while winds have worsened the haze in Singapore and Malaysia. The government of Indonesia's President Joko Widodo is investigating more than 100 companies with fires on their land, yet has made little progress in stopping the haze so far.

A gauge of tiny air-pollution particles reached 989 in Palangkaraya in Kalimantan, and 950 in Palembang on Sumatra, almost three times the 350 level considered hazardous, the country's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said on its website on Wedneday (Sept 30).

Pekanbaru, on Sumatra across the Malacca Strait from Singapore, is providing a shelter for hundreds of babies from poor families to help protect them. Indonesia's central bank has also urged families and children of its workers in Palembang in Sumatra to evacuate to the southern tip of the island, where the air quality is better.

"The situation is no longer worth it for working or going to school," said Andhika Ullya Tovano, in Jambi, Sumatra. "Children are dismissed from school, but it's useless as they're still playing outside because there's no special warning from the government despite the hazardous status."