Rain clears some Borneo haez but

Indonesia:Rainclears some Borneo haze but health problems up

24 September 2002

JAKARTA,24 Sept 2002 (Reuters)  Overnight rain has helped clear the sky over someof Indonesian Borneo but suffocating smoke remains in the central part of theisland where the number of people suffering ill health is rising, officials saidon Tuesday.

Meteorologistssaid more rain was expected to fall in the coming days but high humidity meantthe haze would likely linger. Healthofficials said the smog in the Central Kalimantan capital of Palangkaraya hadreached “a very dangerous level” and the local air monitoring laboratory said the pollution index was three times abovenormal.

“Respiratoryproblems are mounting and children are the ones suffering the most. We have alsohad an outbreak of diarrhoea because of the lack of clean water,” said DrEka from Palangkaraya’s main Dr Sylvanus Hospital. CentralKalimantan has been hardest hit by the haze and the main airport in Palangkarayahas been closed since the beginning of the month.

“Visibilityis below 50 metres today and it seems like there’s no life here. We are prayingfor heavy rain to clear the thick smoke,” airport official JamaluddinHasibuan said by telephone from Palangkaraya, some 875 km (543 miles) northeastof Jakarta.

Mostschools in Palangkaraya are also closed and government officials are running ona skeleton staff. Smokefrom the fires has also affected neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia although itis not as bad as in 1997 and 1998, when dense haze cost regional economies $9billion in damage to farming, transport and tourism.



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