Airpollution levels in Central Kalimantan were off the scale and people were in grave danger of dying painful deaths from carbon monoxide (CO)poisoning, officials said Tuesday. PalangkaarayaAir Laboratorium head Andrie Manurung said levels of carbon monoxide and dustparticles in the air had exceeded test parameters in Palangkaraya. Theconcentration of dust particles in the air (PM10) was already 1,525 microgram/M3on Tuesday, far in excess of the normal level of 50 microgram/M3. Theconcentration of (C0) reached 19,66 milligram/M3 or the danger category. Andriesaid CO, if inhaled, would enter the hemoglobin (red cells) and destroy nervoussystems and eyesight.
“Itcould lead to heart rhythm disorder, dizzy, paralysis, comma, breathobstruction, and death. Therefore I urge the citizens to stay indoors as much aspossible,” Andrie was quoted by Antara as saying. Thecity by day resembled a city at night due to the thick haze that forced citizensto seal their homes and motorists to wear masks to avoid the choking smoke.
“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 told Reuters by telephone from Palangkaraya, 875 kilometers northeastof Jakarta.
Manypeople are reportedly suffering from eye and respiratory problems from the dustparticles from forest and ground fires. Thesick are clogging health centers in the city, including Dr. Doris SylvanusGeneral Hospital.
“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 Dr.Eka.
CentralKalimantan has been hardest hit by the haze and the main airport in Palangkarayahas been closed since the fourth week of August. Severalschools are also closed and government officials have decided not to turn up towork. Activitiesat shopping centers, however, remain normal although a bit sluggish.
InPontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province, the sky was clear early inthe morning with visibility of around three kilometers, but soon lessened to twokilometers as smoke blew in from burning forests in Ketapang district andCentral Kalimantan.
“Wehave had rains in several areas of Pontianak last night that have helped clearthe sky and we are expecting more rain as satellite images show a largeconcentration of clouds over our province,” an employee at the Pontianakmeteorology office told AFP. InMuara Teweh, a district town in Central Kalimantan, visibility was slightlybetter at 500 meters by 11:00 a.m. because of rains the previous day, AchmadYani of the local meteorology office said.
InSampit, another district town of Central Kalimantan, visibility was around 800meters at noon, said Musa Hanaya of the local meteorology office.
Hazehas also begun to cover parts of Sumatra, curtailing visibility to 400 meters inPekanbaru, the capital of Riau province, for the first few hours after dawn.Illegalloggers and farmers are blamed for the fires which they light to clear theirfields for the next planting season.
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 US$9billion in damage to farming, transport and tourism.