Indonesia: Authorities Begin Water Bombing After Fast-Spreading Fires Detected in Riau

Jakarta Globe 7 May 16;

Jakarta. Authorities have dispatched helicopters to assist efforts to extinguish land and forest fires across Riau province after at least 13 hot spots have been detected, officials said on Friday (06/05).

The spots were detected on Friday in five districts throughout the coastal area of Riau, with five hot spots in Pelawan, four in Siak, two in Indragiri Hilir, as well as one apiece in Meranti and Indragiri Hulu.

Of the 13, four were confirmed to be fire spots — indicating land and forest fires with a level of credibility at over 70 percent — Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) head Sugarin said.

"They were detected in the Siak subdistrict of Sungai Apit," Sugarin said on Friday, as quoted by state-run news agency Antara.

An MI-8 helicopter was dispatched on the same day to begin water bombing fire spots which can't be accessed through land, Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edward Sanger said.

While the approximate size of the affected areas is not yet known, he said they are peatlands which have faced dry conditions, causing the fire to spread faster.

"We have to take prompt action in response," Edward added.

Land and forest fires are an annual environment disaster in Indonesia for the last decade. Some observers have described last year's fires as the worst on record.

The fires destroyed vegetation on millions of hectares of land, afflicting more than half a million people with health problems and resulted in billions of dollars in economic losses.