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Air pollution warning for Jakarta

Sydney Morning Herald - October 4, 1997

Louise Williams, Jakarta – Air-particle pollution levels in Jakarta were nine times above the safe limit yesterday and meteorologists issued a warning to ships and aircraft as changing wind patterns pushed the smoke haze into the Indonesian capital. It was the first time air pollution levels for Jakarta were published. A city official said: "If the air quality is dropping and becoming a serious danger, then people must be alerted." The National Meteorology and Geophysic Agency said the changing wind patterns, which are bringing relief for much of Malaysia from the vast smog cloud produced by Indonesia's raging forest fires, would direct the haze towards Jakarta and the busy Sunda Strait which divides Java and Sumatra.

"Grey skies in Jakarta over the past three days are an early sign of the coming haze caused by forest fires in central and east Java," an agency spokesman said. International relief teams began assessing yesterday how to help Indonesia battle its fire and smoke disaster.

Three Australians arrived here late on Thursday to take part in a United Nations disaster relief team and aim to assess over the next few days how Australia might best help, using a $2 million relief package announced by the Foreign Minister, Mr Downer.

Rain is helping firefighting efforts, with more fires reported to be under control yesterday.

But the haze continues to take its toll. Five people were reported dead and four are missing after a motor boat carrying 48 students collided with a freighter on a river in south Sumatra on Wednesday. Thick smog caused the accident, a police officer said.