Indonesia — The thickening haze that is darkening the skies over parts of Sumatra has disrupted flight schedules at the airports in Padang and Palembang.
Local stations of the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) have issued warnings about the thickening haze, caused by the forest fires that have broken out in several places in South Sumatra, Jambi and Riau over the past few days.
The haze in Padang has exceeded the acceptable level and is therefore dangerous for the human respiratory system, Amarizal, head of information and observation at the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) Tabing Station in West Sumatra, warned Thursday.
By Thursday, visibility had fallen to between 50 meters and 100 meters, forcing Padang’s Minangkabau International Airport to delay a number of flights.
“We also strongly suggest the airport cancel any landings if visibility is low,” Amarizal said.
The public has been advised to wear masks to help prevent developing acute respiratory tract infections.
In South Sumatra, BMG’s Kenten climatology station head Muhammad Irdam said the province had reached a very high dryness level of 1,575. The normal level is between 1,000 and 1,500.
Muhammad has called on people to consider the high fire danger and not to light fires freely.
“Even a cigarette butt can cause a major fire here at this time because of the extreme dryness and strong wind,” he said.
Muhammad said the haze thickness level in the province, which was around 1,500 on Thursday, was still considered normal.
It has nevertheless disrupted flight schedules at Palembang’s Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin (SMB) international airport and land transportation across South Sumatra over the past two days.
At Kilometer 26-28 along the Indralaya-Palembang highway, motorists were forced to move slowly because smoke from burning peat moss fields along the road had reduced visibility.
Head of BMG’s SMB international airport station Setiadi said the haze was expected to reach its peak in September and October.
“If no rain falls during the next two months and the temperature rises to 34 degrees Celsius, then there is a greater likeliness of forest fires here, meaning the haze will also be much thicker,” Setiadi said.
Solichin, from the South Sumatra forest fire management project, said the hot spots in the province had increased significantly this month.
He said that during the first five days of August, forest fires had broken out in at least 113 spots in several regions including in the regencies of Ogan Komering Ilir, Ogan Ilir, Palembang, Muara Enim, Banyuasin and Musi Banyuasin.
Most of fires broke out in peat moss fields, which are included in the first category of fire-prone areas.
“We have been doing our best to prevent fires but we need time,” Solichin said.