Indonesia: Some 300 families in Riau flee homes due to wildfire

Antara 28 Aug 16;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - Some 300 families from three sub-districts in Riau province began fleeing their homes on Saturday (August 27) due to land and forest fires, police said.

"The smoke was so thick that local residents had to be evacuated soon," chief of the Riau provincial polices public relations service, Adjunct Senior Commissioner Guntur Aryo Tejo, stated.

Most of the evacuees were oil palm farmers living on private plantations, he noted.

The three affected sub-districts are Bonai Darussalam, Pujud-Rokan Hilir and Mandau-Bengkalis sub-district.

He disclosed that the Rokan Hulu police resort has sent its personnel to help with the evacuation efforts.

"In addition, the police have also distributed free masks among residents," he informed.

The smoke on Saturday was the result of land fire which had been affecting the area since August 22. The situation worsened as the land fire continued to spread, leading to thick clouds of smoke billowing, he explained.

To make things worse, strong winds moved in the direction of the residential areas, forcing residents to evacuate to safer areas to avoid upper tract respiratory infection, he underlined.

He let it be known that the affected residents were evacuated to a soccer field in Jurong hamlet.

(Reported by Fazar Muhardi & Anggi Romadhoni/Uu.S012/INE/KR-BSR)

Hundreds of Riau Residents Evacuated Due to Haze
Tempo 28 Aug 16;

TEMPO.CO, Pekanbaru - Haze from forest and peat land fires in Riau has taken its toll on the activity of residents in two districts.

A total of 300 households in Rokan Hulu and Rokan Hilir districts have been evacuated as the result of exposure to thick smoke.

"The smoke has got thick due to the activity of extinguishing the fires,” Head of Public Relations of Riau Police Commissioner Guntur Aryo Tejo on Saturday (27/8).

According to Guntur, forest and peat land fires have occurred since Monday (22/8).

As a result of the operation of extinguishing the fires, haze was blown off by the wind, disrupting activities of the residents.


Number of Haze-Related Diseases Rise as Haze Hits Riau
Tempo 28 Aug 16;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The number of residents suffering from smoke-related diseases due to the recent haze in Bengkalis, Riau, has risen as haze from forest and peat land fires hit the province.

Head of Technical Implementation Unit for Crisis Center of RIau Health Agency, Jon Kenedy, said that on August 27, at least 69 residents in Bengkalis fell ill due to haze that hit the regency.

Of that number, 63 people suffered from acute respiratory infections, four people suffered from by skin irritation, one person suffered from and one person suffered from eye irritation.

"Haze in Bengkalis was severe enough that many residents have begun to feel the impacts hurt," Jon added.

He also said the Riau Health Agency has sent help to local health agencies including by sending 10,000 medical masks to Bengkalis.

Haze begins to cause problem in visibility in Riau: BMKG
Antara 28 Aug 16;

Photo document of officers observed haze that covered the start Pinang Kampai Airport, Dumai, Riau. (ANTARA/Aswaddy Hamid)
Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said haze of black smokes from forest and bush fires began to cause problem in visibility in Riau in the past two days.

"Thick and black clouds began to blanket Dumai and Pekanbaru limiting visibility especially in the morning," Slamet Riyadi of the provincial BMKG said here on Sunday.

Slamet said on Sunday visibility is limited to one kilometer in Dumai and 2.1 kilometers in Pekanbaru as against normally more than 5 kilometers in the morning.

Hot spots have been detected in various areas in Riau over the past week disrupting flight schedule.

Pelita Air Service aircraft from Jakarta with destination Dumai was forced to diverted routes on Sunday as black clouds in the sky over the Pinang Kampai airport of Dumai.

The ATR 72-500 aircraft finally landed at the international airport of Sultan Syarif Kasim (SSK) II of Pekanbaru.

"The aircraft was forced to land in Pekanbaru, as it was not smokes block view over the Dumai airport," SSK Airport Duty Officer Bambang Setiawan said.

Flights were still normal from and to International Airport of SKK II as the smoke was not as thick as over Dumai airport.

"Visibility in the morning has been improved reaching 5,000 meters on Sunday from 1,800 meters once in the past week," he said.

Last Thursday, the Police Criminal Investigation Agency (Bareskrim) said it had detained 85 forest fire individual suspects in Riau this year.

"In addition, nine companies are being investigated for alleged involvement in forest fires," Bareskrim chief Insp. Gen. Ari Dono Sukmanto said here .

The suspects are facing a jail term of 15 years and a fine of Rp5 billion if found guilty, the police general said.

Last year, 15 plantation and forestry companies in the list of forest fire suspects were released by police drawing protest from environmental activists.

Police said the case against the 15 companies was dropped as there was not enough evidence found against them.

Haze disrupts flights in Dumai, Riau
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 28 Aug 16;

Flights at Pinang Kampai Airport in Dumai, Riau were disrupted by haze from forest fires in several areas in the province over the weekend.

The head of the airport, Catur Hargowo, said the haze limited visibility to only about 1-kilometer. Until noon on Sunday, the thickness of the haze fluctuated and visibility improved to only 2-km.

“Visibility reached the lowest level today,” Catur told The Jakarta Post over the phone Sunday.

Safe visibility is at least 4.2-km for small airports such as Pinang Kampai. “Our landing instruments are not complete yet, for example, we have no runway lights. That’s why the visibility standard is farther than 1.8-km for a modern airport,” he said.

A Pelita Air flight from Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta to Pinang Kampai had to land in Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru, the province’s capital.

“The pilot decided not to land here because of the visibility. The passengers were to continue the journey to Dumai by land,” Catur went on.

Catur said they let the pilots decide themselves. A Trans Nusa flight landed in the morning and departed to Jakarta an hour from arrival.

“The pilot is familiar with Dumai’s air space. He remembers the check points in the airport because he flies here every day. But the Pelita Air pilot was new and rarely flies to Dumai. Each airline and pilot has their own procedure,” Catur said. (evi)

Haze covers parts of Riau
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 27 Aug 16;

Haze covered several areas of Riau province on Saturday morning and reduced visibility following the detection of dozens of hot spots in the province, an official has said.

The worst drop in visibility took place in Dumai, said Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) chief Sugarin citing data from the agency's four observation posts.

"The visibility in Dumai at 7 a.m. local time was only 1,500 meters, in contrast to 9-kilometer visibility yesterday afternoon," he said on Saturday.

Riau's capital city Pekanbaru was also covered in thick haze on Saturday with visibility down to 2.5 kilometers from the forest and land fires in Tapung subdistrict of Kampar regency.

The smog is a result of the forest and land fires currently taking place in five regencies and municipalities in the province. There are 61 hot spots detected in Riau spread in several areas such as Rokan Hilir with 36 hot spots, Siak with 13 hot spots, Bengkalis with nine hot spots and Kampar with one hot spot, Sugarin said.

BMKG personnel and local officials coordinated with Riau Forest and Land Fires Emergency task force to put out the fires in order to prevent the haze getting worse.

Indonesia's annual occurrence of land and forest fires has also caused its northern neighbor Singapore to be blanketed in smoke, triggering yet more complaints from the city-state's residents. Singaporeans lambasted Indonesia for its deteriorating air quality on Friday as winds blew smoke from fires in Riau across the city-state. (rin)

Plantation companies warned not use fire for land clearing
Antara 28 Aug 16;

Palembang (ANTARA News) - The South Sumatra provincial administration threatens to revoke the license of plantation companies if found using fires for land clearing.

Land clearing with fires had been blamed for most big fires in a number of regions in Sumatra including South Sumatra.

Deputy Governor of South Sumatra Ishak Mekki said strict law enforcement is necessary to create greater awareness of potential damage caused by fires to the environment.

"Firm action would be taken by cancelling the license," Ishak said here.

He said plantations companies are not only disallowed using fires but are also responsible for preventing fires in their lands.

Meanwhile South Sumatra police said they are still processing a number of forest fire cases in 2015 and 2016.

South Sumatra police spokesman Sr.Comr R Djarod Padakova said in 2016, there were two new forest fire cases with dossiers already handed over to the prosecution office in addition to carryover cases from 2015.

Police also are busy in socializing the ban on using fires to clear farmlands in district areas as human errors caused around 90 percent of the forest fires in the region, Djarod said.

"Human approaches have succeeded in reducing cases of forest fires this year compared with previous years," he said.

'Outsiders' should focus on Indonesia's efforts to combat forest fires: Minister
Chandni Vatvani, Channel NewsAsia 28 Aug 16;

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said on Sunday (Aug 28) that the country was working non-stop to tackle land and forest fires, and urged “outsiders” to focus on the country’s efforts instead of criticising it.

“We continue to respect the complaints submitted by neighboring countries, but we do not work to tackle the land and forest fires because of the pressure from other countries,” the minister said in a statement.

Dr Siti also said the government was working to fulfill its duty to the people of Indonesia.

“All outsiders should withhold unnecessary comments, but view the efforts that have systematically and seriously been carried out by the government of Indonesia,” she said in the statement.


Dr Siti said her ministry was taking a “multidoors” approach to combatting the fires, including administrative sanctions and civil lawsuits - about 30 companies are currently being subjected to administrative sanctions over last year’s fires and those found guilty will receive a strong warning and have their licenses temporarily revoked. Civil suits against almost 10 companies are also ongoing, she said without the companies.

The minister added that integrated teams on the ground were working to extinguish the fires tirelessly and that the law was being enforced on those offenders who deliberately cleared the land by burning.

“Currently, the Ministry for the Environment and Forestry has enforced a temporary moratorium on forest management permits, palm plantations and management of peatlands. This is one step to evaluate, and at the same time fix the management of natural resources by taking into account environmental factors,” Dr Siti said in the statement.

The results of Indonesia's efforts, Dr Siti said, could be seen from a decline in the extent of smoke and fires this year - satellite observations show a decrease in the number of hotspots from 8,247 points from January to August last year to 2,356 points in the same period this year, a nearly 75 per cent decline according to the statement.

The largest declines in hotspots were seen in the provinces of Riau - from 1,292 in 2015 to 317 in 2016 - and Central Kalimantan - from 1,137 hotspots last year to 56 this year, she added.

However, while Dr Siti said the number of hotspots nationally had been reduced by 70 to 90 per cent, she asked authorities to remain alert as the country entered what she called a “crucial season of land and forest fires” and the start of the dry season.

- CNA/mz

Huge fires hard to put out: Indonesia
Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Aug 16;

Vast swathes of land are burning in western Riau province and prevailing winds may continue blowing the smoke towards Malaysia and Singapore.

Indonesia's weather authorities gave the update yesterday along with a warning that the fires would be hard to put out given the dry and hot conditions.

About 30 hot spots were detected in Riau yesterday, up from 17 on Friday and just seven on Thursday.

"Satellite imagery has shown that the distribution of smoke is quite concentrated in the western part of Riau province, indicating the presence of land fires over a wide area," the Indonesian meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency, or BMKG, said in a statement.

"With the winds blowing towards the east, the smoke will potentially continue to spread to neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore."

It is "very easy" for land and forest fires to break out in the western part of Sumatra, where Riau province is located, but bringing them under control will be "difficult to very difficult", the statement said.

BMKG Pekanbaru chief Sugarin told The Sunday Times yesterday: "Dry conditions and high temperatures mean that land and forest fires can happen easily and spread quickly, making the blazes uncontrollable."

Besides Riau, other affected provinces include North Sumatra, Jambi, Aceh, West Sumatra, Bengkulu and South Sumatra. The BMKG has urged people to stop "burning activities" and residents affected by the smoke to wear masks and stay healthy.

Satellites belonging to the National Space and Aviation Agency of Indonesia (Lapan) detected 30 hot spots in Riau yesterday morning.

Across the country, 108 hot spots were detected, said Indonesia's disaster management agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

He had previously said a combination of dry conditions, sporadic rains and illegal land-clearing by burning in the past week was responsible for the spike.

About 7,200 firefighters have been deployed in Riau, together with seven aircraft for waterbombing and cloud-seeding, he said, adding that about 3,218ha of land in the province had been razed since January.

BNPB chief Willem Rampangilei said the government is "going all out" to put out the fires. "September is the peak of the dry season so we will heighten prevention (efforts)," he added.

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