A plane sits on the apron of Jambi’s Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin airport on Thursday. Flights in and out of the airport have been cancelled there as haze from forest fires severely degrades visibility. (Antara Photo/Wahdi Septiawan)

Jambi Airport Shuts as Fire-Induced Haze Thickens


SEPTEMBER 03, 2015

Jambi. Authorities suspended operations at Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin airport in Sumatra’s Jambi province on Thursday, amid drastically reduced visibility because of haze from forest fires.

The suspension, instated in the morning, was still in place as of mid-afternoon, with 18 flights affected, airport officials said.

“Over the past week, the visibility in Jambi has continued to deteriorate, and it reached its worst level today,” Parolan Simanjuntak, the airport’s head of operations, said in Jambi on Thursday.

He added that with visibility down to 500 meters, the airport authority was forced to cancel all flights in and out.

It is not yet clear when flights can resume, while hundreds of passengers have been left stranded at the airport.

In Jakarta, passengers are also feeling the impact. One passenger at Soekarno-Hatta airport said he had been waiting there for the past two days for a flight to Jambi, but with no success.

“I’ll wait until this afternoon. If there are still no flights from Soekarno-Hatta to Jambi, I’ll have to take a bus to Jambi tomorrow,” said Fendi Sipayung.

The haze has also affected seagoing vessels, with officials in Jambi’s West Tanjungjabung district prohibiting fishing boats and ferries from going out to sea while the haze persists.

“The visibility off the east coast of Jambi was as low as 300 meters on Thursday because of the thick smoke,” said Endang Surya, the head of the district transportation agency.

“That kind of condition poses a serious threat to maritime safety. That’s why we’ve called a halt to all seagoing activities as of today.”

Jambi had the highest number of fire hot spots detected by satellite on Wednesday, at 229 out of some 600, according to the weather agency.

The high incidence of forest fires this year is fanning fears that the particularly acute dry season could result in a worse-than-usual haze threat from the annual forest fires that blight Sumatra.