Fires ravage 42,000 hectares of forest, plantations in Indonesia

A MI-17 helicopter run by the Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency water-bombs a fire in South Sumatra province. (AFP pic)

JAKARTA: More than 6,000 firefighters, assisted by the police and military, are battling fires that have ravaged over 42,000 hectares of forest and plantations in Indonesia since January.

The fires are currently raging in the provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatera and west, central and south Kalimantan and the districts of Kota Dumai, Sambas and Ogan Komering Ilir, according to a report by the Antara news agency.

The firefighters are also using helicopters to water-bomb large tracts of land.

The burning of the forests and plantations for agriculture, in addition to open burning, have become a familiar Indonesian trait during the mid-year period. The resulting haze is then inadvertently sent to neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore almost every year.

Data released by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry shows that between January and May this year, fires have destroyed a total of 42,740 hectares of forest and plantations.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency has forecasted that the drought in Indonesia is expected to continue up to October, worsening the situation.