Indonesia — The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) on Sunday began using aerial firefighting methods in an effort to quell blazes that continued to burn in 12 Riau subdistricts and municipalities.
The latest data gathered shows that fires have spread across 7,972 hectares of land, Riau Haze Emergency Relief Taskforce head Brig. Gen. Prihadi Agus Irianto said in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau, on Sunday.
Riau Governor Annas Maamun declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, when 6,000 hectares had burned.
Prihadi said on Sunday that fires were burning in Bengkalis, Dumai, Indragiri Hilir, Indragiri Hulu, Kampar, Kuantan Singingi, the Meranti Islands, Pelalawan, Rokan Hilir and Siak.
Bengkalis and the Meranti Islands were the hardest hit, with 3,513 hectares and 2,648 hectares burning on Sunday, respectively.
Prihadi said ground and air efforts were converging on the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu biosphere reserve, where fires allegedly lit by careless villagers had burned for weeks.
The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said NASAs Aqua and Terra satellites detected 98 hotspots in Sumatra on Sunday a drastic drop from the 700 seen on Wednesday.
Dry weather in recent weeks had proven to be an obstacle for firefighters, Prihadi said.
When weve managed to extinguish fires in two spots, for example, two other hotspots appear in another area, he told state-run Antara News Agency.
Despite concerns that water dropped from above might not snuff sufficiently the underground roots of fires, the BNPB began flying two airtankers on Sunday.
Today, two airplanes dispatched by the BNPB dropped water bombs from the air because were still deprived of rain, Riau administration spokesman Fahmi Usman said.
He said that four helicopters would soon join the aerial efforts, including two owned by pulp and paper companies.
Fires were spotted in a Jakarta-based Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) concession and in Tesso Nilo National Park in Pelalawan.
Were coordinating with Riaus Natural Resources Conservation Agency [to fight the fires] in Tesso Nilo, Fahmi told Indonesian news portal republika.co.id.
The Riau fires, started by slash-and-burn agriculture techniques and exacerbated by weather, have burned since early February, destroying great swathes of land, displacing people from their homes, forcing schools to shut down, threatening the respiratory health of thousands, disrupting flights and raising the ire of Singapore, where legislation is under deliberation that could result in harsh penalties for Singapore-listed entities found to have contributed to the haze problem.