Indonesia has leased two Russian firefighting aircraft to tackle hundreds ofman-made forest fires that have sent choking haze across parts of South-EastAsia, a local report said on Monday.
The amphibious BE-200 aircraft can hold up to 11 metric tons of watercollected from a lake or the ocean – three times as much as any Indonesian plane- and then drop the payload onto the fires, The Jakarta Post reported.
“Our helicopters, including reinforcements from our air force’s Hercules(C-130 airplane) for cloud seeding and water bombing operations are apparentlynot sufficient,” presidential spokesperson Dino Patti Djalal told the Post.
The aircraft were expected to arrive in Indonesia by the end of the month,the report said.
Each year, illegal slash-and-burning practices by farmers, plantation ownersand loggers on Sumatra and Borneo islands sends haze into neighbouring countriesincluding Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand.
The annual phenomenon is at its worst during the dry season, which runs fromJuly through October. The latest haze crisis pushed air quality in Singapore andMalaysia to unhealthy levels in recent weeks and forced several regionalairports in Indonesia to ground airplanes due to limited visibility.
Education officials on the Indonesian side of Borneo were forced to closeschools until early November because of the haze, and residents were advised toremain indoors unless absolutely necessary.