Singapore haze caused by Riau forest fires, confirms Indonesia

The National Disaster Management Agency says satellites detected 162 "fire alerts" in the Rokan Hilir regency.

The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) of Indonesia said on Monday the haze that affected Singapore for three days was due to the forest fires burning in Rokan Hilir in Sumatra's Riau province.

Dr. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the head of the BNPB's data and information division, said Typhoon Lionrock unleashed winds in the Philippines and those winds carried the forest fire smoke to Singapore.

"The cyclone not only sucked in the haze but also the moisture in Riau, making (the air) drier," Dr. Sutopo told The Straits Times at the BNPB headquarters in Jakarta.

He said between Friday and Sunday, 162 "fire alerts" were detected in the Rokan Hilir regency by satellites. The fire alerts accounted for almost half of all the 338 fires detected across Sumatra and Kalimantan over the same three days.

Dr. Sutopo added that the fires were infuriated by a combination of dry conditions, sporadic rains and the illegal use of fire for land clearing.

"Eradicating such acts is impossible, although minimising it is possible," said Dr. Sutopo.

He also said the firefighting efforts will be focused on the Rokan Hilir area over the next few days to control the crisis.

Apart from Singapore, the heavy haze also hit most parts of Kuala Lumpur. Xinhua news agency reported that the air pollutant readings reached near "unhealthy" levels in the Malaysian capital.