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NEWS UPDATES 7 August 2009

Malaysia and Singapore affected by haze from Indonesia

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Worsening haze caused by slash-and-burn farmers has forced an airport in Indonesia’s province of Riau to close, affecting its close neighbours Singapore and Malaysia, reported Sinapore’s Straits Times.

The fires, caused by slash-and-burn farmers who are clearing land for planting, have led to complaints from Indonesia's neighbours since smog started to envelop the region almost annually in the past 12 years.

Indonesia's Forestry Minister MS Kaban was quoted as saying in a local newspaper on Thursday that firm action would be taken only if flights were disrupted and neighbouring countries mounted protests.

Riau, which is located near Singapore, is the worst-affected province in Sumatra. Hot spots and dense haze were also detected in Sarawak and parts of Kalimantan in Borneo.

“The winds coming from the south-east and south-west are blowing towards Malaysia and Singapore,” weather official Aristya Ardhitama at the meteorological office in Pekanbaru (capital of Riau) told The Straits Times by telephone.

Satellite images showed that the number of hot spots in Sumatra had risen from 44 on Wednesday to more than 60 on Wednesday. A hot spot is defined as a fire covering a hectare of land or larger.

There is a possibility that the haze could be prolonged this year. Aristya said that Indonesia will likely see the rainy season coming only in January - four months late - because of the impact of the El Nino phenomenon.



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