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Indonesia issues warning of possible haze over the Strait of Malacca

JAKARTA - Indonesia has warned on Friday (Aug 19) that haze from forest fires may float over Strait of Malacca towards its neighbours, with the number of blazes rising.

The fires and resulting smog are an annual dry season problem in the archipelago.

Last year's haze outbreak was among the worst in memory, clouding Malaysia, Singapore, and parts of Thailand in acrid smoke. The crisis has forced school closures and caused thousands to be sick across the countries.

Indonesia is heading towards its peak dry season in September though this year's fires have not reached the levels of 2015

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of Data, Information, and Public Relations BNPB (National Board for Disaster Management) tweeted that smoke had Thursday started floating across the Malacca Strait, which runs between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Officers are looking for ‘hotspot’ location coordinates until late at night in the district Muaro, the locations are difficult to reach. (Photo below)

He also informed that the number of "hotspots" - areas of intense heat that are either already on fire or vulnerable to going up in flames - detected by satellites had increased in West Kalimantan province.

hotspotsinkalimantanandsumatera158 hotspots detected in West Kalimantan, dense smoke began to spread around Kalbar on 19 August / photo: twitter.com/sutopo_bnpb

A total of 158 hotspots were detected in the province on Friday, up from 106 a day earlier.

The disaster agency has been asked by the governor of the province to provide helicopters for water-bombing and "cloud-seeding", or chemically inducing rain.

Until around 10 PM Singapore time, the combined task force team of district Muaro in Jambi Province remained on the field until the night looking for the location of hotspots.

extinguishingatnightUntil late at night, clerks was on the ground to extinguish the fire in the district Muaro, Jambi Province / photo: twitter.com/sutopo_bnpb

Indonesia has faced intense criticism from its neighbours and the international community over its failure to halt the annual smog outbreaks.

Jakarta has promised tougher action. It has announced a plan to stop granting new land for palm oil plantations and established an agency to restore millions of hectares of carbon-rich peatlands susceptible to fires.

The last haze warning in Indonesia was in March when the province of Riau declares emergency over forest fires.