Indonesian Police said on Monday, that Indonesia has arrested some 185 people over vast forest fires ripping across the archipelago, as toxic haze sends air quality levels plummeting and sparks flight cancellations.
Jakarta has deployed thousands of people to fight the blazes that are turning land into charred landscapes and devastating forests in the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, where thousands of schools have been closed for health reasons.
Fires generally caused by illegal burning to clear land for agricultural purposes have created a choking fog in Southeast Asia, triggering diplomatic tensions with Indonesian neighbors.
“Indonesian Police will enforce the law against anyone who is proven to have carried out forest and land burning, whether it was done intentionally or through negligence,” National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told reporters in Jakarta.
Some of the most serious fires occur in peatlands, which are highly combustible when drained of water to be converted into agricultural plantations.
Rival Lion Air said about 160 Borneo flights had been affected at the weekend. nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections linked to the haze in recent months, according to Indonesian health authorities.
While forest fires are an annual problem, the situation this year has been worsened by drier weather in Indonesia, with diplomatic tensions soaring as toxic smog drifts over to neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.
The haze pushed Singapore’s air quality to unhealthy levels for the first time in three years at the weekend.
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