Firemen work non-stop to put out fires in Riau

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JAKARTA: A special fire-fighting team has been ordered to work round the clock to put out forest fires at 74 hotspots in the Riau province, Sumatra.

The forest fires, and in oil palm plantations, are reported to have affected neighbouring Malaysia, causing the air quality in several states to deteriorate.

Riau police chief Supriyanto was reported by the local media as saying that the special team, consisting of firemen, police, the army and navy, had been able to control the fire at 50 hotspots and was working to control the fire at other hotspots. They include Bengkalis, Kotamadya Dumai, Meranti Island, Pelalawan, Rokan Hulu and Siak.

He said various methods, including water bombing, were used by the team to fight the fire.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG), on its website stated that the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading in Pekan Baru, Riau and Pontianak in Kalimantan this morning was unhealthy.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo recently ordered the special team set up by the government to tackle the forest fires expeditiously and effectively to avoid a serious haze problem like what happened last year.

Stern action had also been taken by the Indonesian government to address the problem, like catching and prosecuting those responsible for starting forest fires.

Malaysia was among countries worst affected by the forest fires in Indonesia last year, resulting in the closure of schools when the air quality dropped to very unhealthy levels.