Indonesia Receives Offers of Aid to Help Fight Fires
Posted on Thu, 25 Sep 1997 19:14:09 GMT
The thick blanket of smoke that now covers much of southeast Asia is
bringing offers of help to Indonesia and warnings for travelers.
More than 1,000 Malaysian firefighters have joined 8,500 Indonesians
now fighting forest fires on Sumatra and Kalimantan islands. The fires have
been burning for two months and have spread smoke over six countries of
southeast Asia, spreading north to Thailand and east to the Philippines.
Most of the fires have been blamed on slash-and-burn agriculture as
plantation owners and small farmers burn off land for new crops in
advance of the monsoon season.
Two deaths have been blamed on the smoke and haze. More than 32,000
residents of Sumatra and Borneo have been treated for respiratory
On Wednesday, the World Bank offered emergency
funding saying the smog is "a terrible situation."
Japan has offered Indonesia equipment and expertise to fight the
fires and two forestry experts from Canada are to arrive this weekend.
Australia has said it would assess the damage and offer assistance.
The U.S. State Department has sent a cautionary note to its citizens
Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia that air pollution has reached
unhealthy levels. The British Foreign Office warned travelers with
respiratory or heart problems to seek medical advice. "All visitors
should limit outdoor and physical activity," a spokesman said.
Reuters news service reports that British-based travel agent Thomas
Cook is refusing to take new bookings for vacation holidays in
A forestry expert said there were growing fears that huge tracts of
peat underlying the rain forests could catch fire -- resulting in a much
more serious situation. There have already been reports of peat catching
fire, but the size of the problem is not yet known. Peat fires in some
parts of the world are known to have burned for hundreds of years.
The Associated Press, Reuters News Service, Agence
France Presse, the Hong Kong Standard and the South China Morning Post
contributed to this report.