Indonesia Schools shut down as choking smoke from forest fires intensify

An aerial view of Palembang city covered by smoke from the forest fire in South Sumatra province, Indonesia, October 14, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Nathan/ via REUTERS

Indonesia warned its citizens of more choking smoke from forest fires on Tuesday as several provinces closed schools due to worsening air quality.

An El Nino weather pattern this year has intensified annual dry-season fires, often caused by slash-and-burn clearing of forests and bush for farming, including plantations.

The number of hot spots in parts of Sumatra and Borneo islands has been on the rise over the past week despite some rain, Indonesia’s weather agency said in a statement, warning that residents should be on alert for smog.

A total of 1,547 hot spots, which indicate fires or heightened risk of fire, were detected in six provinces, the agency said, adding that smoke from the blazes may affect more provinces depending on the wind direction.

The statement made no mention of potential cross-boundary smoke. Thick haze from fires had drifted to neighboring countries at the height of the dry season last month, triggering a diplomatic dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia.

Some schools which had reopened after air quality improved, shut again this week.

Authorities in Palembang, the provincial capital of South Sumatra, closed schools for three days from Monday with an extension if conditions did not improve, state news agency Antara reported.


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