Haze thickens in Sumatra and Kalimantan, affects Malaysia

Haze thickens in Sumatra and Kalimantan,affects Malaysia

Source: The Jakarta Post, October 16, 2004


The haze shrouding Sumatra and Kalimantan islands thickened on Friday and,with its density reportedly surpassing the minimum threshold, residentscomplained of respiratory and eye problems.

In Palembang, Balikpapan and Samarinda, in particular, the haze disruptedflights.

Syamsul Huda, chief of the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMG)Balikpapan office in East Kalimantan, said that the haze density in the city wasfar above the minimum haze density threshold set by the World HealthOrganization (WHO) and the government.

“Haze density reached 583 micrograms per cubic meter this morning (Friday),far above the minimum threshold set by WHO and the government of 130 and 150micrograms per meter cubic respectively,” said Syamsul.

According to Syamsul, 645, 254 and 72 hot spots had been detected in SouthKalimantan, Central Kalimantan and East Kalimantan respectively.

Head of the community health division at the Balikpapan administration, Diah,said that the number of people who had attended local community health centersin the past month had increased, with most complaining of respiratory-relateddiseases.

An official of Sepinggan International Airport in Balikpapan, Frans, saidthat visibility at the airport reached only 300 meters in the early morning, farless than the acceptable visibility for pilots of 2 kilometers.

The airport did not delay or cancel flights as the haze gradually dissipatedin the afternoon.

In Samarinda, the capital of East Kalimantan, visibility reached 500 metersin the morning. By the afternoon, the sky was clearer, and it was not necessaryto alter the flight schedule.

Due to the haze, some Samarinda residents wore masks outdoors and whendriving. “The haze is much thicker than a few days ago,” said motoristHaryani, 42.

Nunung Triatmoko, the head of Termindung Airport in Samarinda, feared thatthe haze could be much thicker in a few more days, if rain does not fallimmediately.

“If that happens, flight delays and cancellations would be inevitable,”said Nunung.

In Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra province, Mayor Eddy Santana Putrareiterated his call on Friday for Palembang residents to reduce outdooractivities.

He also called on schools in the city to shorten lessons so that studentswere not subjected to the haze.

He said the government would distribute 2,000 free masks to residents.

Separately, parts of Malaysia, including the capital Kuala Lumpur, wereshrouded in smog caused by fires in neighboring Indonesia, officials said onFriday.

“The pollution is caused mainly by forest fires in Sumatra,” ameteorological department spokesman told AFP, on the condition of anonymity.

Officials here said 442 hot spots were detected in Sumatra on Thursday.

Visibility in Pahang state, Malaysia dropped to 1.4 kilometers in some areasand 1.5 kilometers in Johor state, while in the capital of eastern Sarawak,Kuching on Borneo island, it was 4 kilometers.


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