Indonesia: 478 hotspots detected in West Kalimantan

Antara 3 Sep 15;

Sungai Raya, West Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - As many as 478 hotspots were detected in West Kalimantan Province until September 1, according to the meteorology office in Pontianak.

Most of the hotspots were found in the districts of Ketapang, Melawi, Sintang, North Kayong, and Kubu Raya.

Plantation and peatland fires in the province have caused haze that has reduced visibility up to one thousand meters. Some parts of the province have received rainfall, and the visibility has improved over the past few days.

The general manager of the airport management company PT Angkasa Pura branch of Supadio Airport in Pontianak noted that the haze did not affect Wednesday's flight schedules.

On the previous day, haze had forced the postponement of 16 flights to and from Pontianak until 9 a.m. local time.

"But after 9 am local time, the flight operations were back to normal," he added.

In the meantime, in the neighboring province of Central Kalimantan, a total of 1,183 hotspots had been detected over the past eight months, of which 708 were found in August.

"The number of hotspots has increased from 266 in July to 708 on August 26," staff member of the early surveillance division of Central Kalimantan Provinces Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Andreas Dody noted last week.

The hotspots, mainly caused by forest and bush fires, were detected in the districts of Kotawaringin Timur, Kotawaringin Barat, Pulang Pisau, Kapuas, Seruyan, Katingan, Palangka Raya city, Sukamara, Lamandau, Murung Raya, Barito Utara, Barito Selatan, and Barito Timur, he affirmed.

According to the province's Natural Disaster Mitigation Agency Head Brigong Tom Moenandaz, forest and bush fires have affected 665.8 hectares of land until August 26.

Forest and bush fires were detected in various districts, including Sukamara, Kotawaringin Barat, Palangka Raya city, Barito Utara, Pulang Pisau, Kapuas, and Katingan, he revealed.

Passengers crowd Pekanbaru airport as haze grows thicker
Rizal Harahap, 3 Sep 15;

Hundreds of passengers crowded an airport in the Riau provincial capital of Pekanbaru on Thursday as flights were delayed as haze grew thicker in city, caused by intensifying forest fires in Riau and its neighboring provinces.

“Those passengers are certainly disappointed because their flights have been delayed. But they understand because they also don’t want to fly in such conditions,” officer in charge at Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru Tony Hendri said on Thursday.

He said that the airport had distributed food and drink to the waiting passengers.

Tony said that 15 flights had been delayed as visibility at the airport had decreased. “There is no other choice but to wait for the haze to clear. With such visibility, the pilots cannot see the airstrips,” he added.

Based on reports from four monitoring posts of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru, visibility was 200 meters in the morning, having worsened from 500m on Wednesday.

Haze has disrupted flights at the Riau airport since Tuesday. On Wednesday, 14 flights were delayed, including a plane that was scheduled to take haj pilgrims to Mecca. Meanwhile, nine other flights were suspended.

Haze also disrupted flights to and from Dumai and Rengat. The visibility in Dumai and Rengat regencies was 300 meters and 800 meters, respectively.

“Pelita Air and Trans Nusa, serving Dumai-Jakarta and Dumai-Batam could not fly as scheduled,” said Pinang Kampai Airport in Dumai head Catur Hargowo. (bbn)

Thick haze paralyzes schools, airports in Sumatra, Kalimantan
Rizal Harahap and Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post 3 Sep 15;

Thick haze caused by ongoing land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan has forced local authorities on the two islands to temporarily shut down schools and delay or cancel flights on safety concerns.

In Riau, the Pekanbaru municipal administration on Wednesday decided to close down schools until Thursday in response to ever-thicker haze that has blanketed the city over the past few days.

Fuad Jabbar, a student at SMP 8 Pekanbaru state junior high school, expressed relief that students were finally sent home, saying that he had been suffering from a cough for the past week.

“My nose hurts and it’s hard to breathe. I’m also suffering from an eye irritation, making it hard to concentrate,” he said, adding that some of his friends were suffering similar symptoms.

Pekanbaru Education Agency head Zulfadil said the decision to send local students home was necessary, as the air quality in the city had continued to drop in recent days.

“We want to anticipate any negative impacts,” Zulfadil said, adding that the agency might extend the schools’ closure if the city’s air quality did not quickly improve.

In Kampar and Rokan Hulu regencies, a number of schools also decided on Wednesday to send their respective students early.

Pelalawan regency, meanwhile, had taken the same policy earlier on Tuesday and schools are scheduled to resume activities by Friday.

“We are advising schools to give their students days off if the air quality in their respective region stays at unhealthy levels for three consecutive days,” explained Riau Health Agency head Andra Sjafril.

Local authorities in many parts of the country, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan, have been struggling over the past few months to extinguish massive land and forest fires triggered mainly by this year’s extended dry season.

Haze has also played havoc with flights at a number of airports in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

According to authorities at Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport in Pekanbaru, limited visibility on Wednesday forced 10 domestic and international flights to delay their arrivals at or departures from the airport, Antara news agency reported.

In North Sumatra, 11 flights were canceled from landing at or taking off from Kualanamu International Airport in Deli Serdang regency on Wednesday on similar concerns.

“Before 1 p.m., 10 flights canceled their arrivals at or departures from the airport. Another flight was canceled at 3:10 p.m.,” Kualanamu airport duty manager Indra Lubis told The Jakarta Post.

Meanwhile in Central Kalimantan, Susi Air’s flights from and to Beringin Airport in Muara Teweh, North Barito regency, were also canceled on Wednesday because of thick haze.

“The flights were canceled because the haze has been relatively thick since this morning,” airport officer Akhmad Sidik told Antara.

While most of the recent land and forest fires are the result of natural causes, others have been intentionally sparked by irresponsible parties.

In Jambi, the local police announced on Wednesday that they were investigating five cases of intentional land burnings in the province.

Jambi Police chief Brig. Gen. Lutfi Lubihanto said three people had been named suspects for allegedly burning 819 hectares of land in Tebo Ilir district, Tebo regency. The case, he said, was being handled by the Tebo Police.

Jon Afrizal in Jambi contributed to the article.