Indonesia deployed military planes to fight raging forest fires on Friday that blanketed neighbouring Singapore in record levels of hazardous smog for a third straight day in one of Southeast Asia’s worst air-pollution crises.
As Singaporeans donned face masks and pulled children from playgrounds and Malaysia closed schools in the south, the deliberately-lit fires grew bigger in some areas.
Whipped up by winds, the blazes added to fears over health problems and diplomatic tension in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, three of Southeast Asia’s biggest economies.
“The winds are picking up and the weather isn’t very good at the moment, so the fires in some places are getting bigger,” Gunawan, a firefighter who like many Indonesians go by one name, said by telephone. “We are working as hard as possible to control the fires ... but we’re facing difficult conditions.”
Indonesia’s government blamed eight companies, including Jakarta-based PT SMART and APRIL for the fires.
The environment ministry is expected to name the rest of the firms on Saturday.
Illegal burning on Indonesia’s Sumatra island typically take place in the June to September dry season to clear space for palm oil plantations.