Wednesday, July 10, 2013


     Jakarta, July 10, 2013 (Antara) - After launching all-out measures against forest, plantation and peatland fires in Sumatra, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB)'s Haze Emergency Response Task Force has finally revoked the emergency response status of the worst-hit Riau Province.
     "Since July 6, the emergency status has been revoked, and now Riau is the transitional period for recovery," Agus Wibowo, a spokesman of BNPB's Haze Emergency Response Task Force, said in Pekanbaru, Riau on July 9, 2013.

     The task force has also claimed that its joint team consisting of among others military members, has managed to extinguish a total of 1,041 fire hotspots in the province. 
    The task force is a joint team consisting of among others members of the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Police, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the Health Ministry, the Forestry Ministry, and the Social Affairs Ministry.
      Thanks to their hard work, the team's members were successful in carrying out their task in fighting the fires much ahead than the target set by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who on June 20, 2013, ordered all ministries and relevant institutions to put out the fires within one month at the longest.
      The president issued the instruction because the forest fires produced haze affecting thousands of lives of people in Sumatra as well as in Malaysia and Singapore.
      The Indonesian government had declared the emergency response status for Riau as of June 21 due to the haze blanketing parts of Sumatra Island, Singapore and Malaysia.
     They began its fire-fighting operation on June 18, 2013, and managed to reduce the number of hotspots in Riau from 148 to 141, Agus Wibowo said.
      On June 20, 2013, the number of hotspots further dropped to 60 and the next day to 13 hotspots.
     However, due to tropical storm developing over Riau, the number of hotspots increased to 92 on June 22, 154 on June 23, and 265 on June 24, 2013.
     Using water bombs and cloud seeding process to make artificial rains, the task force managed to reduce the number of hotspots to 54 on June 25, and further to six hotspots on June 26, 2013.
      "Finally, on Monday (July 8), only three hotspots remain but there is no more flame, but just smoke," he said.
      The NOAA 18 Satellite detected only three fire hotspots early this week respectively in Siak, Bengkalis and Dumai Districts, Riau Province.
       "The task force's focus is on Chevron area in Duri now. All helicopters and members of the Marine have been directed there," he said.
        According to him, around 2,000 members of the joint team will return to Jakarta on June 21, 2013.
        However, the task force will continue the aerial monitoring by using two helicopters to make sure no re-occurrence of hotspots.
        Vice Governor of Riau Mambang Mit has expressed his appreciation to those being involved in the fight against the fires, particularly personnel of the BNPB, the Agency for the Development and Application of Technology (BPPT), the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) and the National Police (Polri).
         Some of the fires had been set deliberately by irresponsible people wanting to clear land for plantations or farming areas, and it is against the existing law and regulations in Indonesia.  
    In that connection, the Police of Riau have arrested 23 suspects, according to a spokesperson of the Riau Police Command, Adjunct Senior Commissioner Hermansyah.
        The 23 suspects have allegedly caused forest and land fires in 15 areas located in some districts in the province.
        They are currently being detained in their respective district police offices for investigation.
        The Police have been in coordination with the Ministry of Environment to investigate any indication of involvement of companies in the forest fires. The number of suspects might still increase.
        As the number of hotspots have been declining following fire fighting operation, the air quality index in Riau has continued to improve.
        The haze has so far caused about 10,382 citizens, including at least 3,160 children, to suffer from acute respiratory infections (ISPA) in the province.
         The Riau Health Office's Environmental Health Section Chief Dewani said in Pekanbaru recently that among the areas that have the most number of victims are Indragiri Hulu District (2,863 people), Dumai city (1,554 people), Bengkalis District (1,438 people) and Siak District (1,183 people).
          The number of respiratory infection patients has increased by 20 to 50 percent a day at the average since June 18, 2013. 
    Riau's children are risky to suffer from lung cancer if the province's air is continuously polluted, Yohanes, the head of the Riau health service, said in Pekanbaru recently.
          "A person could suffer from lung cancer if she or he inhales smog for a long period. However, it depends on one's immunity," he said.
          The haze has also caused 674 people to suffer from pneumonia, 527 from asthma, 669 from skin irritation, and 369 from eye irritation.
         During the emergency situation due to the fires, those patients were given free medical services and the Riau authorities distributed at least 120,000 face masks to people living in and around fire-hit areas.  ***4***
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(T.F001/A/F. Assegaf/F. Assegaf) 10-07-2013 11:59:54

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