President Joko Widodo, center, seen with Armed Forces (TNI) Commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, left, and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, inspecting the site of a wildfire in Riau in October last year. (Antara Photo/F.B. Anggoro)

Indonesia to Buy Three Planes to Fight Fires Next Year


OCTOBER 10, 2015

Jakarta. The Indonesian government is planning to buy three airplanes to be used to extinguish forest fires, President Joko Widodo said on Friday during a visit to haze-hit Riau.

Joko said the planes would be used for firefighting purposes as well as to provide logistical support for such operations in the future.

"These planes will be able to carry 12 tons of water, [and we'll purchase] three of them [next year]," the president said in Rimbo Panjang village, in Riau's Kampar district.

Indonesian aircraft currently used for firefighting operations can only carry two to three tons of water, according to Joko.

On Friday, it was announced that six nations had offered to help quell the fires, which have been causing thick haze in large parts of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Malaysia and Singapore.

Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering from respiratory tract infections due to the haze, which has also caused schools to shut on a number of occasions in the affected areas.

Aircraft capable of fighting fire have already arrived from Singapore, but Malaysia, South Korea, China, Australia and Russia have also indicated they are willing to help.

The Singaporean firefighting aircraft will be able to carry between 12,000 and 15,000 liters of water per flight.

Riau is among several Indonesian provinces hit by the seasonal fire and haze crisis, which has been exacerbated this year by the El Nino phenomenon bringing extremely dry weather to the region.

The Indonesian government had previously rejected offers of assistance from other countries, notably Singapore and Malaysia, with Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung explaining that the administration was concerned foreign governments would claim credit for ending the crisis.