Indonesian forest fires spread across Southeast Asia and, according to NASA scientists, the haze could potentially become the worst to ever be recorded in the region. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have all been suffering from acrid smoke for weeks, as plantations and across the countries continue to burn.
NASA has released a warning that the current haze follows the same path as the similar 1997 disaster, widely regarded as the worst on record. However, based on the rapid rate on which the fires spread and the unusually dry season keeping much-needed water at bay, there are fears the current disaster will be much more severe and long-lasting.
“If the forecasts for a longer dry season hold, this suggests 2015 will rank among the most severe events on record,”
said Robert Field, a Columbia University scientist working for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The Goddard Institute previously released a report in 2009, warning that Indonesia was a “disproportionate contributor” to atmospheric carbon dioxide. Researchers agree that the current disaster is a direct consequence of man-made climate change.
Another recent report measuring pollution in the central Kalimantan province, the Indonesian area most affected by the forest fires, shows that levels have skyrockets in recent years, exceeding the hazardous degree over five times. 177,000 people in the country are said to suffer from severe pulmonary issues and other haze-related health defects.
The Indonesian government has already declared a state of emergency for the island region of Riau. Mayor Firadus, of the province’s capital, has promised to prepare an air-conditioned hall capable of hosting over 100 families affected by the disaster.
The government has also deployed 25 aircraft to water bomb the provinces of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The planes are also supposed to also engage in cloud seeding operations in a desperate attempt to trigger much needed rainfalls across the vast forests. However, the thick smoke from the fires quickly spreading in the area makes aviation increasingly difficult, with both provinces now declared no-fly zones.
Despite all the hazards, Willem Rampangilei, Indonesia’s disaster chief, refused neighboring country Singapore’s offer for assistance, saying that the situation was “under control” and that rainfall should be expected by early November. Meanwhile, 20,000 troops and other emergency personnel were deployed to Kalimantan and Sumatra to help civilians evacuate and douse the fires spreading across vast crops, fields and even residential areas.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia