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Fire still raging at Tangerang landfill

Jakarta Post - October 23, 2023

Dio Suhenda, Jakarta – Firefighters are still trying to put out a blaze that has been raging since last week through the Rawa Kucing landfill in Tangerang, Banten, which has caused temporary disruptions to flights at nearby Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

Fire broke out on Friday afternoon at the 34.8-hectare Rawa Kucing landfill, which began its operations in 1992.

While its cause remains unknown, authorities suspect that heaps of plastic waste caught fire amid the prolonged dry spell triggered by the El Nino climate pattern currently affecting many parts of the country.

As of Friday, the Tangerang municipal and Banten provincial disaster mitigation agencies (BPBDs) have sent 40 fire trucks and 530 firefighters to quench the fire, which was still burning on Sunday.

The fire had burned around 80 percent of the landfill as of Sunday morning, said Tangerang city spokesperson Mualim.

According to Mualim, firefighters had made little progress in extinguishing the landfill blaze due to the presence of methane gas, a colorless, odorless and highly flammable gas produced during the decomposition of organic waste.

"The fire is [burning] inside the trash mounds, where methane gas is also trapped. [This causes] the fire to grow whenever there are strong winds," Mualim said on Sunday, as quoted by Tempo.co.

The Tangerang municipal administration has evacuated residents living within 500 meters from the landfill as the fire reportedly spread to several nearby houses.

A city official and a Tangerang BPBD representative reportedly lost consciousness due to smoke inhalation while they were aiding the evacuation process on Saturday.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) planned to deploy a water bomber helicopter to help in the firefighting efforts, its spokesman Abdul Muhari said in a statement.

Flight disruption

On Saturday, smog from the fire blanketed some of the runways at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, located just under 3 kilometers from the landfill, forcing authorities to divert several inbound flights to other airports.

"There were flight delays and [several flights] were diverted on Saturday due to the haze," Holik Muwardi, the airport's senior manager of branch communications and legal affairs, said on Sunday, as quoted by Kompas.com.

According to Holik, the haze prompted airport authorities to adjust the operations of two out of three runways that were normally used for both takeoffs and landings, with one dedicated exclusively for takeoffs and the other for landings only.

"But we can now confirm that everything had returned to normal by Saturday afternoon. All three runaways can be used for both takeoffs and landings again," he added.

State-owned air navigation firm AirNav had issued on Saturday a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) to inform airlines of the fire at the Rawa Kucing landfill.

According to AirNav, seven incoming flights were diverted to other airports on Friday and Saturday due to poor visibility.

These included diverting a nonstop Nippon Airways flight from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Singapore's Changi Airport instead of its original destination airport of Soekarno-Hatta, where it was slated to land on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Other landfill fires

Fire also broke out last week at another landfill on Java as the prolonged dry season continues to sweep southern regions on the island.

Firefighters in Batu, East Java, were still trying to put out a fire that has been burning since Friday at the Tlekung landfill.

The BNPB's Abdul said in a statement that wind had hindered firefighters' efforts to contain the blaze.

The agency is still investigating the cause of the fire, which local residents first detected at noon on Friday in the landfill's southern part.

Fire incidents were also reported at some seven landfills in Central Java and West Java over the past few months. The worst fire occurred at the 25-hectare Sarimukti landfill in West Bandung, West Java, which was used as central dump for Bandung and surrounding cities.

Source: https://asianews.network/fire-still-raging-at-tangerang-landfill