Indonesia: State of emergency declared in six provinces over haze
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Indonesia: State of emergency declared in six provinces over haze

INDONESIA has declared states of emergency in six provinces as peat fires shroud parts of neighboring Singapore and Malaysia in smog.

Singapore’s air quality deteriorated to unhealthy levels on Friday as winds blew smoke from fires in Sumatra across the city-state and southern Malaysia.

The number of hotspots detected by weather satellites has increased in the past month though they are below levels last year when massive fires caused a regional crisis.

Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency says six provinces have declared emergency, allowing firefighting measures to go into full effect.

Many of the fires are deliberately set by agricultural conglomerates and small-time farmers to clear forests and peatland for plantations.

SEE ALSO: Indonesia: Climate experts warn regional haze may reoccur, as hotspots rise

Last year’s fires were the worst since 1997, spreading across over 261,000 hectares (2,610 square kilometers).

On Wednesday, the Malaysian government offered to help Indonesia put out the raging forest fires by sending assets and manpower to its neighbour.

According to Channel News Asia, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim said Malaysia was ready to deploy two Bombardier CL415 to Indonesia if Jakarta makes an official request. The aircraft capable of carrying up to 6,000 litres of water every 12 seconds, are ready to be dispatched.

“We are ready to assist Indonesia,” Shahidan was quoted as saying. “But there are has been no official request yet; the two bombardiers are ready to go.”

Haze largely caused by illegal slash-and-burn agricultural policies in Indonesia has affected the Southeast Asian region annually for decades.

“We must help our neighbor,” Shahidan said.

Uncontrolled burning from fires in Riau, South Sumatra, and Kalimantan causes the smoke to spread hundreds of kilometers across the region to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines, resulting in major deterioration in air quality levels, health problems, and economic losses.

Additional reporting from the Associated Press