Indonesia battles hundreds of forest fires

Indonesia battles hundreds of forest fires

22 August 2006

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Indonesia — Firefighters battled hundreds of forest fires on the Indonesian island of Borneo Friday, as haze blanketed at least two cities in the region, officials said.

“There are fires burning all over farmers’ land,” said Yohannes Sudarto, a forestry ministry official coordinating firefighting efforts in CentralKalimantan, a province on Borneo island.

He said that 45 firefighters were trying to put out the fires, but werestruggling because in many places they had no access to water.

“It is difficult in several places where there is no water, and it’s far from rivers, what we need is mobile tanker,” Sudarto told AFP from Central Kalimantan’s capital, Palangkaraya.

He said firefighters in areas without a water source were using shovels and brooms to fight the blazes.

Thick haze covered parts of Palangkaraya and outlying rural areas, said Sudarto.

In West Kalimantan, the regional capital Pontianak was shrouded in haze, with visibility down to 50 metres (164 feet) at 0100 GMT, reported statetelevision TVRI.

Local police were shown attempting to put out hundreds of fires in the province. TVRI said the province recorded 1,200 hot spots on Friday.

In Central Kalimantan, 30 firefighters were attempting to control fires raging across around 50 hectares (123.5 acres) of forest, said Ahmad Yani, a forestry department official.

An official in Jakarta said complete figures for the number of hotspots for Borneo and Sumatra islands on Friday were not available, but on Thursday there were more than 900 hotspots across three provinces in Kalimantan.

Burning in Indonesia and some parts of Malaysia to clear land for crops causes an annual haze that typically afflicts Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand as well as Indonesia itself.

The government has outlawed land clearing by fire but weak enforcement means the ban is largely ignored


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