PEKANBARU (Riau, Indonesia) — Twelve Malaysian firemen who are members of a team sent here to help douse forest fires in the Rokan Hilir district, have fallen ill with one of them in serious condition and admitted to the hospital in Kota Dumai.
Riau Environment Management Agency head Khairul Zainal told reporters here Thursday that three other firemen were treated at a clinic in Simpang Bangko and the remaining eight at the clinic in the Malaysian camp.
“They fell sick two days ago but I don’t know the nature of the illness, whether it is a common cold or fever,” he said.
The 128-member Malaysian team, comprising men of the Fire and Rescue Department and the Special Malaysian Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Smart), arrived here on Aug 15 to assist Indonesia to put out the forest and peat soil fires which have blanketed the region, including Malaysia, with a thick haze.
They are assisting about 300 Indonesian firefighters made up of firemen and volunteers.
Riau land and forest fire management centre head Wan Abu Bakar said at least 20,000 hectares of peatland in seven out of the 11 districts in Riau province were burning.
Abu Bakar, who is also the vice governor of Riau, said it was difficult to put out the fires because they were fanned by strong winds and the fires had penetrated deep into the peat soil.
“The fires on the surface have been doused but the soil underneath is still burning,” he said.
He said many new fires had started in different districts, such as in Kota Dumai where there were still no firefighters.
Meanwhile, a 54-member Singapore civil defence corps team arrived at the Sultan Sharif Kasim II airport this afternoon to join the firefighting effort.
Khairul Zainal said the Singaporeans would be sent to Rokan Hilir where many fires were still burning.