Jambi (ANTARA) - Haze, emanating from forest fires and blanketing Jambi, has thickened, forcing the temporary closure of early childhood education schools (PAUDs) and kindergartens.

The air quality over Jambi was considered unhealthy and hazardous, according to data of the Air Quality Monitoring System (AQMS) issued by the Jambi environmental affairs office, Abu Bakar, spokesman of the Jambi administration, revealed here on Tuesday.

Kindergartens and PAUDs have been shut down on Oct 15-18, while elementary and high schools started at 8:30 a.m. local time instead of 7 a.m. local time.

He also noted that all outdoor activities in schools were canceled.

"As a protective measure against smog, all students, teachers, and administrative employees are urged to wear face masks while they are in schools and on the way to and from schools," he remarked.

In the meantime, haze arising from forest fires and shrouding Palembang, South Sumatra Province, had thickened over the past week, Executive Director of the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) Hairul Sobri stated.

"Air quality in Palembang today is categorized as unhealthy due to smog from forest fires in several districts, such as Ogan Ilir, Banyuasin, and Ogan Kemering Ilir," he noted in Palembang on Monday.

He remarked that the air in Palembang not only reached an unhealthy level but also tend to be hazardous, with pollutant level at over 250 micrograms per cubic meter (m3).

In accordance with the Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU), the levels of 0-50 micrograms/m3 is categorized as good; 50-150, moderate; 150-250, unhealthy; 250-350, very unhealthy; and over 350 micrograms/m3, hazardous.

Walhi has urged the authorities to extinguish forest fires immediately to prevent haze from spreading to wider areas and choking local residents, especially children and women, as the smog is hazardous.

Hundreds of Palembang residents were afflicted by respiratory illness since their city had been blanketed by haze.

The government has deployed seven helicopters to conduct waterbombing operations by spraying 66 million liters of waters over South Sumatra to extinguish the wildfires, Agus Wibowo, spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBN), noted.

Forest fires induced by the El-Nino natural phenomenon that triggered prolonged drought across Indonesia during this year's dry season have affected eight provinces in Indonesia.
Related news: Haze cover over Palembang thickens: Walhi
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Translator: M Hanapi, Fardah
Editor: Suharto
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