Indonesia launches biggest operation ever to combat fires

Agence France-Presse
Indonesia launches biggest operation ever to combat fires
32 planes and helicopters including 6 aircraft from Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, plus 22,000 personnel on the ground, are fighting the fires

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia launched Friday, October 16, its biggest operation ever to combat fires blanketing Southeast Asia in haze, an official said, with dozens of planes and thousands of troops battling the widespread blazes.

32 planes and helicopters – including 6 aircraft from Singapore, Malaysia and Australia – were dispatched to back up the more than 22,000 personnel on the ground who have been fighting the fires for weeks.

Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the air teams would conduct water bombing and weather modification efforts across 6 of the worst-hit provinces in Sumatra and the Indonesian portion of Borneo island. 

“This is the biggest haze emergency operation ever carried out by the Indonesian government,” the spokesman said. (WATCH: Aerial footage shows devastating damage of forest fires)

For weeks, fires illegally started to clear land for plantations have shrouded Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia in acrid smog, worsening air quality, closing schools and forcing the cancellation of outdoor events. 

The blazes are an annual occurrence during the dry season, but scientists have warned this year’s are on track to be the worst ever as an El Nino weather system has created tinder-dry conditions in Indonesia.

Jakarta earlier this month agreed to accept international help after weeks of failed attempts to douse the blazes infuriated its neighbors. 

Japan on Friday joined several other countries contributing to the emergency effort, donating two tonnes of flame retardant to Indonesia.

Nugroho said dry conditions were continuing to hamper efforts, with new fires still popping up. Indonesian satellites as of Friday had detected more than 750 hotspots on Sumatra, mostly in the south of the island. – Rappler.com

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