PALEMBANG, Indonesia (AP) — Firefighters on Friday were trying to put out a peatland fire on Indonesia's Sumatra Island that was growing in size near a dense residential area.
The effort is made difficult by the limited firefighting equipment and distant water source, a one-hour trip to the fire's location in the area of Pulau Negara village in South Sumatra province.
Local residents are helping the firefighters since the fire is burning near their homes. The number of homes at risk was not immediately available.
The fire started in bushes and trees Wednesday and was burning close to a highway that connects the Ogan Ilir district capital to Palembang, the capital city of South Sumatra province.
“The local joint task force is trying to prevent the fire from spreading to the toll road causing dense smog,” said Haniman, an official from the firefighting task force.
Indonesia’s forest and land fires are an annual problem that strains relations with neighboring countries. The smoke from the fires has blanketed parts of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand in a noxious haze.
Indonesia’s dry season fires were particularly disastrous in 2015, burning 2.6 million hectares (10,000 square miles) of land. The World Bank estimated the fires cost Indonesia $16 billion, and a Harvard and Columbia study estimated the haze hastened 100,000 deaths in the region.