PEKANBARU. Thousands are fleeing Pekanbaru as the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) in the Riau province capital, which is about 280km away from Singapore, surged to a record 984 yesterday.
Many have taken to the roads, trying to find their way north to neighbouring Medan, or west to Padang, to escape the thick haze that has rendered their hometown unliveable.
The exodus via land includes people who had initially planned to fly out of the city, after their flights were grounded owing to the poor visibility caused by the haze from forest fires in the provinces of Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra.
Pekanbaru resident Benny Sukma Negara said he hightailed for West Sumatra by car yesterday after the haze hit hazardous levels.
This despite efforts by the Indonesian emergency services to douse the blaze by air, after ground operations had failed to keep the fire from raging over the weekend.
“The haze has permeated into our house over the last three days and it’s getting worse,” said Mr Benny, a university lecturer. “We wore a mask even inside our home.”
According to Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), there were 1,143 hot spots in Sumatra as of 5am yesterday. These comprise 724 in South Sumatra, 234 in Jambi, 78 in Riau, 69 in Lampung, 25 in West Sumatra, and 13 in Bengkulu. In Kalimantan, there were 266 hot spots.
BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the large number of hot spots is proof that the illegal burning of peatland has continued despite stepped-up enforcement.
Considering this poor condition, RZ invited Indonesian people and even the world to care about the condition of people in Riau by donating for high quality mask and oxygen for only 275.000 rupiah per package. It will be distributed in Pekanbaru, Palembang, Pontianak, Samarinda, Balikpapan dan Banjarmasin. ***