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August 18, 2005

Indonesia Is Burning


It happens every summer, like clockwork: poor farmers, illegal loggers and plantation companies in Indonesia set hundreds of fires to clear land.

The trouble is that the smoke spews haze into the atmosphere above other countries as well.


Last week neighboring Malaysia declared "a state of emergency in two coastal cities as haze levels there reached record highs," wrote Wayne Arnold in a story that appeared in Tuesday's New York Times.

He continued, "Low visibility and pollution forced officials to close schools and shut down Malaysia's busiest port [Port Kelang] for a day."

"An acrid haze covered some Indonesian cities and drifted up the northern coast of Borneo and north along the Malay Peninsula into Thailand, where officials issued health warnings."

Malaysia sent a team of 125 firefighters (below)


to Indonesia to aid the Indonesian efforts to put out the fires.

Tell you what: when you read, as I just did in the link above, that "the situation in Thailand on 14 August 2005 [this past Sunday] was characterized by smoke blanketing Southern areas of Thailand including Satun, Phatthalung, Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Phuket and Songkhia," well, you have to wince considering how difficult a year it's already been for these areas, many battered by the great tsunami.

For what it's worth, the current fires do not appear to have reached the intensity of those in 1997, which produced haze that covered Southeast Asia, affecting an area larger than the continental United States (below).


The 1997 fires resulted in 40,000 people being hospitalized and caused an estimated $9.3 billion in health costs, lost agricultural production and other economic damage, wrote Arnold.

August 18, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Hi Joe. I'm here in M'sia - KL the capital city. And the haze has been gone for days (clear blue skies and lovely fluffy clouds right now). It was really only bad for about 4 days (yes, I know this is bad enough).

Just saying - cause you know, news reporters who keep saying the haze is really bad here, when it's already gone - it has an adverse effect on our tourism industry

Posted by: IB | Aug 19, 2005 1:21:43 AM

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