Jakarta – Residents of East Kotawaringin in Central Kalimantan have been forced to wear dust-masks to protect their health following the emergence of "extremely thick" haze from widespread forest and land fires in the region.
A satellite image at 7:38 a.m. on Monday showed that at least 19 hot spots were detected in the regency, including in the sub-districts of Teluk Sampit, Mentaya Hilir Selatan, Mentaya Hilir Utara and Hanaut Island.
"I don't usually wear masks, but I had to use one today to protect my respiratory system. The haze was extremely thick," said Fadlan, a local resident.
The haze has also reportedly reduced visibility in the area, prompting motorists to turn on their vehicle lights in broad daylight to avoid traffic accidents on Monday.
Thick haze also struck some parts of Pekanbaru province on Monday, causing limited visibility in a number of cities, such as Pekanbaru and Dumai.
Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency official Yasir said the haze came from land and forest fires in Siak and Infdagiri Hilir regencies.
At least 65 hot spots indicating land fires were spotted in Sumatra on a satellite image at 6 a.m. on Monday, including in Jambi Bangka Belitung, Lampung, South Sumatra and Riau Islands, as reported by Antara.
Environment and Forestry Ministry data shows wildfires burned 42,640 hectares of land across the country between January and May this year, which was nearly double the figure in the corresponding period last year of 23,745 ha.
More than a half of the total razed area – 27,538 ha – are peat forests in Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra, West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, North Kalimantan and Riau, the last of which suffered most wildfires covering up to 25,592 ha
Recent reports have claimed that a haze crisis has erupted again in Riau and Malaysia, after a similar crisis in 2015, with Kuala Lumpur pointing its finger at forest fires in Sumatra as the main culprit.
The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) recently detected haze over Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negeri Sembilan and Penang, claiming that the smoke had come from forest fires in Riau, Malaysia-based newspaper The Star reported. (vny/afr)