Indonesia– A light haze has begun to descend on the city of Bengkalis in the province of Riau on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, as peat fires rages across several districts in the region. “Although the haze is still light, it is nonetheless alarming – especially considering that Bengkalis has not had any rain in the past month or so,” said Fatimah, a Bengkalis resident.
According to Fatimah, residents are worried that the light haze might turn into a disaster – the way it did back in 2015, which caused numerous health problems among thousands of affected residents.
Rudi, another resident of Bengkalis, concurs with Fatimah. “The haze were first seen two days ago – and is especially visible during early mornings and late in the evening,” Rudi said. “This is caused by peat fires across Bantan and Bengkalis.”
The Head of Bengkalis’ Disaster Mitigation Agency Fire-Fighting Unit, Drs. Suiswantoro, confirms the reports of peat fires, and said that his officials have yet to fully extinguish the fires that were reported in the village of Muntai in Bengkalis. “Our firefighters, aided by volunteers, are doing their best to extinguish the flames – but the peat beneath the ground has made it especially hard to put out,” Susiwantoro said. “Furthermore, there are very few reliable sources of water near the site of the fires.”
Suiswantoro also called on Bengkalis residents to stop clearing away forests and fields near peat lands using fires – especially since the dry season brings about bouts of high winds and dry, hot air throughout the region.