Russian water-bomber attacks Indonesian fires

Russian water-bomber attacks Indonesianfires

8 November 2006

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Indonesia: A Russian water-bombing plane started battling forest fires inIndonesia’s part of Borneo island on Wednesday after months of thick smokeblanketing neighbouring countries.

The haze coming from fires in Borneo and Indonesia’s Sumatra island has beenparticularly bad during this year’s dry season, spreading pollution across largeareas of Southeast Asia, including Singapore and Malaysia.

The fires, often deliberately lit by farmers or by timber and palm oilplantation companies, have been largely extinguished in Sumatra after recentrain and weeks of water bombing.

However, conditions in southern and central Borneo, where a major airport hasbeen closed for weeks, remain bad. Indonesia’s annual six-month rainy seasonusually starts in October but the rain frequency in the provinces of Central andSouth Kalimantan on Borneo has been sporadic.

The Russian plane, one of two leased to douse the fires, has been sent toSouth Kalimantan province after helping combat fires in southern Sumatra.

“The plane has flown to one fire zone today and poured water there. Weare also conducting cloud-seeding attempts to create artificial rain,”research ministry official Asep Tarsidi told Reuters by telephone from theprovincial capital of Banjarmasin, 950 km (590 miles) northeast of Jakarta.

“The spread of haze in Kalimantan is a lot worse than that in Sumatra.In the morning, visibility can only reach 700 metres (2,300 ft),” saidTarsidi, who is involved in cloud-seeding operations.

The aircraft, operated by Russian pilots, were brought into action in lateOctober.

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