Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA) - The Riau provincial administration unveiled its plan to issue a land and forest fire emergency preparedness status at a meeting scheduled to be held in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau Province, on Tuesday evening.

The meeting was held by taking into account the current situation and condition of dry season and wildfires in several districts and cities in Riau Province, Head of the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) Edwar Sanger stated.

"The issuance of the land and forest fire emergency preparedness status also takes into account the same status that had earlier been announced by the authorities of three districts," he stated.

Last year, the same status had also come into effect from Feb 19 to October owing to the serious impact of land and forest fires partly caused by irresponsible people habituated to practicing the slash-and-burn methods for clearing land.

During 2019, the wildfires had scorched 75,871 hectares of land in Riau. The total area of land, ravaged by the land and forest fires, in 2019 exceeded those of 2017 and 2018 that were recorded at 6,866 hectares and 37,236 hectares respectively.

According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the thick haze arising from wildfires ravaging several districts and cities in Riau last year had led to at least 275,793 residents in Riau ailing from acute respiratory illness.

In early January 2020, the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) detected 15 hotspots in six districts of Riau Province even as residents in the provinces of Jakarta, West Java, and Banten struggle to recover from flooding and landslides.

The hotspots were detected in the districts of Bengkalis, Meranti, Pelalawan, Siak, and Indragiri Hilir as well as Dumai City, according to the agency's analyst for Sultan Syarif Kasim II-Pekanbaru's Meteorology Station, Yasir Prayuna, stated.

The confidence level of five out of the 15 detected hotspots reached 70 percent, thereby indicating the occurrence of fires, he stated, adding that two land fires were detected in Dumai and Indragiri Hilir respectively, while the other one was found in Bengkalis.

In contrast, in December 2019, flash floods and a landslide swamped certain areas of this province, killing six people, according to Sanger.

The landslide buried two victims, while four others died in the flash floods that inundated certain areas in the districts of Rokan Hulu and Kuantan Singingi, he remarked.

The floods inundated the areas of 216 villages in the districts of Rokan Hulu, Kampar, Pelalawan, Kuantan Singingi, Indragiri Hulu, and Rokan Hilir, affecting 8,798 houses, according to Sanger.

Due to the grave nature of such natural disasters, the district governments of Kampar, Rokan Hulu, Pelalawan, and Indragiri Hulu had issued an emergency alert status in response to the threats of floods and landslides until the end of 2019, he remarked.

During the rainy season, certain parts of Riau are prone to flooding and landslides while during the dry season, wildfires continue to recurrently ravage this province.

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Translator: FB Anggoro, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Sri Haryati
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