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Haze disrupts visibility, cancels flights to Riau

Publication Date : 25-02-2014


Haze caused by land fires blanketing the Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport in Pekanbaru, Riau forced airport authorities to cancel a number of incoming flights on Monday morning.

Flights from the Hang Hadim International Airport in neighbouring Batam, Riau Islands, were cancelled, while flights from other cities to Pekanbaru were rerouted to Batam on Monday.

Hang Nadim airport general affairs head Suwarso said two of the three Lion Air flights to Pekanbaru were cancelled due to the haze.

“Two flights were cancelled due to the haze, while a flight from Jakarta to Pekanbaru was diverted to Batam today. The condition at Hang Nadim airport remains normal,” said Suwarso.

According to Suwarso, the diverted flight was operated by Citilink, carrying 114 passengers. The plane landed in Batam at 8:46am and resumed the flight to Pekanbaru at 11:22am.

“Flights have been diverted from Pekanbaru to Batam from Sunday, ever since the haze hit Pekanbaru,” said Suwarso.

Hang Nadim airport’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency (BMKG) weather station head Philip Mustanu said the number of forest fires in Riau had increased.

According to Philip, wind from Riau was westerly, so the haze would not affect Batam, Singapore or other areas located to the east of Riau.

“Batam and Singapore is safe from the haze at the moment, but should the number of fires remain high until March or April, it could pose a threat to Batam and Singapore due to changing wind patterns,” said Philip.

He added that visibility at Hang Nadim airport remained ideal at between 9,000 metres and 10,000m and wind velocity was between 20 kilometres and 30km per hour.

Based on observations by the Pekanbaru BMKG using Terra and Aqua satellite images, 1,398 hotspots were detected in Sumatra on Monday morning, 1,243 of which were found in Riau, while the rest in North Sumatra (85 hotspots), Riau Islands (43), Jambi (25), West Sumatra (5), and Lampung and Bangka Belitung (both 1).

The number of fires in Riau has surged sharply. A day earlier, only 64 hotspots were detected by satellite imagery. The most number of hotspots are found in Bengkalis (515), followed by Siak (208), Meranti Islands (141), Pelalawan (118) and Dumai city (126).

Dozens of others have been detected in Indragiri Hilir, Rokan Hilir and Indragiri Hulu. Only Kampar, Kuantan Sengingi and Rokan Hulu regencies and Pekanbaru city are free of fires.

Pekanbaru BMKG analyst Ardhitama said the number of hotspots was the highest in Riau in the past five years.

“The greatest number of fires BMKG had previously detected in Riau was around 900,” he said.

“In general, the weather in Riau remains overcast. In Dumai city, visibility at 7am reached 7km, in Rengat 1km, Pelalawan 800m and Pekanbaru only 500m.”


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