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Indonesia fires continue to wreak havoc 10 killed

25th Oct 2015
Indonesia fires continue to wreak havoc 10 killed
By Ainur Rohmah

 

 

JAKARTA (AA): Smoke from forest fires in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo that has been causing havoc across Southeast Asia for more than three months has now killed at least 10 people locally.

National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement Saturday that some victims had died fighting the fires, while others — mostly children — had been poisoned by the toxic smog.

“Some died from smoke inhalation. Others already had a history of problems and the smoke aggravated their condition,” he said.

One victim, 13-month-old Ammar Fahmi, was reported dead Friday in Tarakan in Borneo’s south after exposure, while on Thursday, a student in central Sumatra, Lutfi Ramadan, also asphyxiated.

The agency has recorded more than 500,000 people in six provinces suffering from acute respiratory infections over the last four months.

“Land and forest fires are manmade disasters because 99 percent of the fires are intentional. This is a remarkable crime against humanity,” Nugroho said.

Every year, vast tracts of peat land are cleared on Sumatra and Borneo using illegal slash-and-burn methods to make way for palm oil and paper plantations.

President Joko Widodo has said the government will not give out new licenses for the use of peat lands, and would also review permits already in use.

“It is time for the government to get tough,” he has been quoted as saying, while ordering ministries to prepare operations to evacuate those caught up in the fires.

To assist those in affected areas, the government has prepared tents equipped with air filters, and plans to evacuate casualties to local government offices, and — as a last option — to deploy warships to evacuate infants, children and the elderly.

Around 30 aircraft and thousands of personnel are currently involved in firefighting efforts, including planes from Singapore, Malaysia, Russia and Australia.

As of Friday, however, there were still 826 blazes in Sumatra and 974 in Borneo.

A report released Wednesday by the Center for International Forestry Research labeled the smoke “extremely hazardous for your health”.

It said the fumes contained toxic chemicals including ozone, carbon monoxide, cyanide, ammonia and formaldehyde.

 

[Photo: Photo taken from above with Kamov helicopter of the National Agency for Disaster Management Indonesia shows Pekanbaru city full of haze due to forest fire in Riau islands, Indonesia on September 13, 2015. Photographer: Sutanta Aditya/Anadolu Agency]

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