Five hectares of the palm plantation land is on fire."
Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - Several hotspots in Bengkalis District, Riau, are caused by the extreme weather during the dry season and the acts of irresponsible people who employ the slash-and-burn method for land clearing, stated a mitigation agency official.

The hotspots were detected in the sub-districts of Bantan and Bengkalis, Head of the Disaster Mitigation Agency of Bengkalis Districts Fire Brigade Division Suiswantoro stated here on Monday in response to the appearance of hotspots during this years dry season.

The hotspots were detected in the palm plantation area of Muntai Village.

"Five hectares of the palm plantation land is on fire," he pointed out.

However, Suiswantoro said he had yet to ascertain the total affected area, but most of the hotspots were found in peatlands. He further added that his men had been making efforts to extinguish the fires.

Meanwhile, according to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG)-Pekanbaru Station, 12 hotspots were detected in the districts of Kepulauan Meranti and Bengkalis on Monday.

"In Bengkalis, there are four hotspots, while eight others were detected in Meranti," Sugarin from the BMKG-Pekanbaru Station stated.

Nine of the 12 hotspots were believed to be forest and land fires, with confidence level of more than 70 percent, he revealed.

In response to the discovery of hotspots in certain areas of Riau, the provincial government had declared an emergency alert status on Monday, indicating the need to expedite the efforts to prevent and handle forest and land fires.

"We responded to the fact that several district governments have already declared an emergency alert status, conveying the gravity of the situation to the central government," Acting Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman affirmed.

The status, which would remain effective for three months, was aimed at expediting measures for handling and preventing forest and land fires, he said, adding that Meranti, Bengkalis, Dumai, Rokan Hilir, Siak and Pelalawan district governments had declared the emergency alert status.

Speaking to journalists here, Rachman stated that this anticipatory step was taken after consulting with BMKGs Pekanbaru station, which had forecast that the intensity of rainfall in Riau was on the lower side.

With the alert status upgraded to emergency, the relevant authorities will be able to focus their efforts to prevent and extinguish forest and land fires through the optimum use of resources, he noted.

Last year, thick haze arising from the forest and land fires affected Riau and several other provinces in Sumatra Island, crippling commercial flights and triggering acute respiratory infections among several people.

(Reported by Fazar Muhardi & Anggi Romadhoni/Uu.R013/INE/KR-BSR/O001)

Editor: Priyambodo RH
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