The helicopters prioritised conducting water bombings over the districts of Palalawan, Indragiri Hulu, and Indragiri Hilir, where several forest fires were ongoing and triggered haze that envelope Riau’s capital of Pekanbaru.

A helicopter drops water on a fire in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra, Indonesia in 2016. (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Water shortage owing to sources drying up during the current severe dry spell and strong winds was among the several obstacles that hindered optimal firefighting efforts.

Data from the Indonesian Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry indicated that over 30,000 hectares of forest areas were ravaged by fires since January this year.

The country’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG) Station in Pekanbaru, Riau, on August 24 confirmed that 584 hotspots representing forest fires were spotted on Sumatra Island.

Of the total, 272 hotspots were found in Riau, over two-folds as compared to 112 hotspots spotted a day earlier.

Visibility in Pekanbaru City was curtailed to 1.5 km at 8 a.m. (local time) on August 24 owing to smog emanating from forest fires in Pelalawan District. Local residents of Pekanbaru wore face masks while venturing outdoors since the city’s air quality remained at an unhealthy level.

Wildfires occur in Indonesia in every dry season due to traditional burning practices in agriculture. In 2015, the impact of wildfires was far reaching as it was out of control and acrid haze from the fires engulfing neighbouring countries./.

CPV/VNA