Asia PacificNews

Indonesia Forest Fires Cover Region in Haze

Indonesian police arrest 185 over forest fires

Making life difficult for locals, thick haze continued to cover a city on the Indonesian island of Sumatra  due to forest and peatland fires.

Since the beginning of September, the sun has not been visible in the city’s normally blue sky.   Most locals in the city of Pekanbaru in the Riau province wear masks when driving or going outdoors.

The air quality index in the city registered as “unhealthy,” said weather officials, with particulate matter reaching 195.4 micrograms per cubic meter.    Visibility in the city was also very limited, down to around 1.2 kilometers.

Schools have been closed since last week due to the poor air quality.

Meanwhile, Indonesian authorities have arrested 185 people suspected of starting forest fires that are spreading a noxious haze around Southeast Asia, police said.

According to the officials, the suspects were arrested in six provinces that have declared a state of emergency over forest fires. The provinces have a combined population of more than 23 million.

Nearly every year, Indonesian forest fires spread health-damaging haze across the country and into neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. The fires are often started by smallholders and plantation owners to clear land for planting.

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