World

Firefighters battle peatland blazes on Indonesian island of Sumatra

Forest and peat fires are an annual problem in Indonesia (Muhammad Hatta/AP)
Forest and peat fires are an annual problem in Indonesia (Muhammad Hatta/AP) Forest and peat fires are an annual problem in Indonesia (Muhammad Hatta/AP)

Firefighters in Indonesia are battling several peatland fires in several locations on Sumatra, officials said.

The fires started on Tuesday afternoon near residential areas and along a major road in three villages.

The firefighters were hampered because water sources were far away and several reservoirs were dry.

Forest and peat fires are an annual problem in Indonesia that strains relations with neighbouring countries. Smoke from the fires has blanketed parts of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand with a noxious haze.

A fire in Indonesia
A fire in Indonesia Smoke from the fires has blanketed parts of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand with a noxious haze (Muhammad Hatta/AP)

Suharyanto, head of the National Disaster Management Agency, said the current fires in the province of South Sumatra would not affect neighbouring countries.

“I’m sure that in general everything is under control. Even though there is smoke now, I’m sure it’s not as big as what happened in previous years,” said Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

“There has been land that has been burned, but a lot of it has also been extinguished.”

There are six provinces in Indonesia where forest and peatland fires are most common, according to the disaster agency. They include South Sumatra, where a big peatland fire burned for several days in August.

Indonesia’s dry season fires were particularly disastrous in 2015, burning 2.6 million hectares of land.