Indonesia declares emergency due to forest fires

The Star 30 Aug 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesian Minister of Forestry and Environment Siti Nurbaya has announced the country has been placed under emergency state due to forecasts on blazes and impacts of smoke from forest and land fires.

Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reports that the announcement came during the ministers visit to Tanah Laut in South Kalimantan on Sunday.

The minister affirmed that forest and land fires situation will be monitored closely.

According to her, effective monitoring and prompt response helped to significantly reduce the number of fires in Jambi and West Kalimantan provinces by 70-90 per cent in the early months of the year. However, the number of hot spots increased during July and August, especially in Riau and West Kalimantan.

According to Indonesia’s Meteorology, Geophysics and Climatology Agency (BMKG), the number of hot spots has increased due to the dry season and drought in Sumatra and vicinities. The agency also anticipated that this year, dry season will last until mid-September. - Bernama


BNPB Deploys More Water-Bombing Helicopters as Riau Hotspots Extinguished
Whisnu Bagus Prasetyo & Eko Prasetyo Jakarta Globe 30 Aug 16;

Jakarta. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency, or BNPB, has deployed two more water-bombing helicopters to tackle hotspots in Riau and assist the existing three helicopters and three aircraft in the region.

There are two MI-171 helicopters, one MI-8, one Sikorsky S61 and a Bolcow 105, with two Air Tractor firefighting planes and an Indonesian Air Force CASA aircraft.

"Generally, the fires [in the hotspots] have been extinguished. From visual observations, thin smoke is still emanating from the land area, mixed with vapor. The air is generally clean," BNPB chief Willem Rampangilei said during an operation in Riau on Tuesday (30/08).

He said the intensive efforts have provided a significant result. The forests and peatland fires, which raged in Tanah Putih and Pujud in Rokan Hilir district, have been extinguished.

"The land surface was black after the fire, and it was wide," Willem said.

His statement was corroborated by footage from NASA's Modis surveillance satellite, which only detected one hotspot in Riau at around 4.30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The air quality has been categorized as good to medium, unlike the condition during the massive fires last year.

In an effort to encourage raincloud formation, the BNPB has seeded the skies with 800 kilograms of salt at a height of 9,500 feet above Pelalawan, Siak and Pekanbaru City.

"In total, 40 tons of salt have been used to create artificial rain in Riau, and there are still 9.5 tons of salt in stock for this purpose," Willem said.

A land task force consisting of members of the Indonesian Military, National Police, Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency, as well as several other related institutions, has been operating nonstop to put out the fires.

Two companies from the military, consisting of between 200 and 300 personnel, have also been deployed to assist the task force. They are further tasked with safeguarding the areas from possible intentional burnings.

"I have instructed [our personnel] to remain alert. The task force should be focused on patrols and observation or fire extinguishing activities. The regions that burned should be protected from more fire," Willem said. "We will still be using water-bombing helicopters to hunt for any remaining smoky areas. The current weather is totally conducive for such activities."

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