Sumatra warned over emergence of forest and land fires

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency-Pekanbaru Station detected 42 hotspots in five provinces of Sumatra Island on Tuesday, of which 31 were found in six districts of Riau Province.
The agencys head, Sugarin, stated that 11 other hotspots, which were recorded by the Terra and Aqua satellites on Tuesday at 5 a.m. local time, were found in the provinces of North Sumatra, South Sumatra, Aceh, and Riau Islands.
The number of hotspots in Riau Province has increased from 24 to 31 over the past two days. Of the total 31 hotspots, 11 were found in Meranti Islands, nine in Bengkalis, seven in Pelalawan, two in Indragiri Hilir, and one each in Siak and Rokan Hilir, he revealed.
According to Sugarin, 10 out of the 31 hotspots in Riau Island were believed to be forest and land fires, with confidence level of over 70 percent.
In response to the appearance of these hotspots, Head of the Disaster Mitigation Agency of Bengkalis Districts Fire Brigade Division Suiswantoro revealed on Monday that several hotspots in the district were 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.
The hotspots were found in the sub-districts of Bantan and Bengkalis, he said.
The hotspots were detected in the palm plantation area of Muntai Village. 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.
Both the district and provincial governments responded to the discovery of hotspots in certain areas of Riau. The provincial government had even declared an emergency alert status, indicating the need to expedite the efforts to prevent and handle forest and land fires.
Last year, thick haze arising from forest and land fires affected Riau and several other provinces in Sumatra Island, crippling commercial flights and triggering acute respiratory infections among several people.(*)