Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - A Russian-made Kamov helicopter is to be deployed to join in the efforts to combat fires now raging in forests, plantations and peatland areas in Riau province, an official said.

The helicopter arrived at the Roesmin Nujadin air force base on Sunday, March 9, Agus Wibowo, the head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNBP)s data section, said here on Monday.

The helicopter will join in water bombing activities and, according to authorities, is able to operate for five hours while carrying 5,000 liters of water.

Commander of the Riau Haze Emergency Response Task Force, Brigadier General Prihadi Agus Irianto, said that in addition to aerial operations, firefighters on the ground continue to extinguish the fires.

The Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) is also carrying out weather modification activities though cloud seeding methods, in a bid to trigger rains over the fires.

The Indonesian government has deployed a number of helicopters, including those rented from Russia, to extinguish the forest fires by dropping water bombs.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has reported that forest fire hotspots in Riau Province increased again, from 51 to 79 on Monday.

BNPB officials stated that, according to monitoring by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 18 Satellites, Riau had only one hotspot on Thursday, March 6, which increasing to 10 hotspots on Friday, March 7, and 51 on Saturday, March 8. The latest report reported 79 hotspots on Monday.

Meanwhile, Agus Wibowo said that during the last four days, hotspots in Riau have increased and will continue to do so if it does not rain in the next few days.

NOAA also detected increases in fire hotspots throughout Sumatera, rising from 129 spots to 210 on Sunday, March 9.

Schools in Riau Province are closed until March 12, beginning Monday, due to worsening air pollution caused by forest fires.

Meanwhile, the Riau police have arrested a number of people suspected of deliberately setting fires, the commander said.(*)

Editor: Heru Purwanto
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