Thousands battle Indonesian fires, but no progress on haze

PEKANBARU, INDONESIA — The government has dispatched nearly 21,000 personnel to fight forest fires raging in its northern islands, the disaster management agency said on Tuesday, but smoke cloaks much of the region with pollution readings in the “very unhealthy” region in neighbouring Singapore.

Slash-and-burn agriculture has blanketed Singapore, Malaysia and northern Indonesia in a choking “haze” for weeks, pushing up pollution levels and disrupting flights, as it does every year. Indonesian efforts to halt the seasonal clearances have failed.

More than 135,000 Indonesians were reported to be suffering fromrespiratory diseases, the disaster agency said in a statement.

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Indonesian officials, including Vice President Jusuf Kalla, have repeatedly said they have enough resources to handle the crisis, with Mr Kalla adding that neighbouring countries should be grateful for clean air provided by Indonesia’s rainforests outside the haze season.

Mr Kalla this week toned down his earlier comments and said Indonesia was open to foreign assistance, according to media.

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