Pangkalpinang, Bangka Belitung (ANTARA) - The Bangka Belitung Islands administration has distributed 10 thousand masks in all schools in Bangka Barat District in anticipation of respiratory illnesses caused by thick smoke arising from South Sumatra's wildfires.

"Today, we distributed ten thousand masks to schools in Bangka Barat District," head of the Bangka Belitung Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Mikron Antariksa, said in Pangkalpinang city on Thursday (October 4).

Due to its geographical proximity to South Sumatra, where certain areas are experiencing wildfires, Bangka Barat is regarded as the region most vulnerable to getting affected by the smog from land and forest fires, he said.

Therefore, in anticipation of the possible impact of the thick haze from the South Sumatra wildfires, the Bangka Belitung Islands provincial government has begun distributing the masks since Wednesday, he said.

As of Thursday, Antariksa claimed that the province's air quality level remained "normal." He, however, promised to coordinate with the province's environment agency to ensure the real air quality level.

"Along with our counterparts from the environment office, we are measuring the air quality level to know whether or not the air condition remains unharmful to people's health," he added.

ANTARA has reported earlier that Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has projected that this year's dry season will follow the same pattern as the one seen in 2019.

A total of 28 percent of regions in Indonesia, which include 194 seasonal zones (ZOM) determined by the BMKG, have been forecast to experience the dry season from June this year.

BMKG head Dwikorita Karnawati has said that a stronger El Nino phenomenon due to the positive phase of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) could trigger a drought during the dry season in Indonesia.

Taking note of the serious impacts of the El Nino climate pattern on several regions in Indonesia, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is collaborating with ministries and institutions to apply weather modification technology (TMC) to extinguish fires and support other needs.

In the last two months, TMC has been implemented continuously in Riau, West Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), West Java, Jambi, Jakarta, South Kalimantan, and South Sumatra, BNPB head, Lieutenant General Suharyanto, said in a recent statement.

Meanwhile, certain areas on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have been blanketed by haze resulting from wildfires.

The South Sumatra administration has distributed 3.6 million masks to local residents in response to unhealthy air conditions due to the smog.

According to the head of the South Sumatra Health Service, Trisnawarman, on Sunday (October 1, 2023), the Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU) in Palembang city had reached a harmful level.

That means it could seriously harm public health, he added.

Related news: Pekanbaru mulls closing schools if haze worsens

Related news: BNPB seeks to anticipate forest fires to prevent transboundary haze

Translator: Aprionis, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Tia Mutiasari
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