Thick haze from forest fires in Central and East Kalimantan provinces continued to blanket some cities in Kalimantan on Monday, but heavy downpours over the weekend helped ease the fog in some cities in Sumatra.
In Samarinda, East Kalmantan, visibility has been reduced to one kilometer because of the haze.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administrations (NOAA) satellite found 17 fires in East Kalimantan, 225 hot spots in Central Kalimantan and 133 in South Kalimantan on Sunday.
Yusman, the head of Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) at Termindung Airport in Samarinda predicted the thick haze in the province would last until the end of October, when the wind’s direction in Central and South Kalimantan is expected to change.
Residents, particularly motorists, of Samarinda and Balikpapan have had started using masks in a bid to prevent respiratory and eye problems.
“I must keep my motorbike’s lights on to avoid a possible accident and I’ve had to stop several times to wash my face. It hurts my eyes and the smell is bad,” said Nurdiansyah, a motorist.
However, the Samarinda administration said it could not provide free masks for residents despite the growing number of patients with respiratory ailments due to the haze.
The number of patients with respiratory illnesses reached more than 700 this month, from last month’s 400.
However, Dr. Djatmiko Wahyono of the city’s health agency said the condition remained under control.
“Free masks are only given to residents for free during extraordinary conditions,” he said. The authority would announce extraordinary conditions existed if the number of patients with respiratory problems reached double that of the previous month, he said.
Djatmiko called for people to buy their own masks to prevent possible respiratory ailments.
Meanwhile, the North Barito authority in Central Kalimantan distributed thousands of masks to Muara Teweh residents free of charge.
Environmental agency head Dr. Wiwiek Jarwiati said the agency also provided free training for residents to deal with ailments caused by haze.
Separately in Palembang, authorities announced heavy rains around most parts of South Sumatra had put out as many as 414 hot spots in the province, Antara reported.
Local BMG head Suyatim said the rain meant people did not need to worry about the possibility of increasing levels of haze over the province.
Thick haze had blanketed the province for the past three days.
The local health agency had provided about 50,000 masks to be distributed to local residents, particularly children.