- Air quality in all but one Indonesian provincial capital was below harmful levels on Monday morning.
- Police are investigating a fire at the finance department of the Central Kalimantan government that destroyed “important” documents.
- Military and volunteer first responders continue to battle fires in Java after four people died in East Java last week.
After months of hazardous air quality, heavy rains last week sent pollution into moderate levels in all but one of Indonesia’s provincial capitals by Monday morning. Only the South Sumatra city of Palembang registered an “unhealthy” reading, at 237 by 8 a.m.
On Sunday a fire tore through the offices of the Central Kalimantan government’s finance department. The fire has raised suspicions of an attempt to destroy evidence that could be used in criminal and civil cases against companies suspected of culpability in the province’s ubiquitous fires.
“The provincial government has provided data that important files related to data on development in all districts and cities [were in the building],” said Jukiman Situmorang, the police chief of the provincial capital, Palangkaraya.
“I will make sure this fire will not disrupt services to the community,” said Central Kalimantan’s acting governor, Hadi Prabowo. “The discussions around the 2016 budget will also not be a problem because the files burnt in the Bureau of Finance and Economy are also held by Bappeda [the provincial development agency].”
Police have yet to comment on whether the fire was an accident or the result of arson. The governor said officers must be given time to carry out an investigation.
“The forensics team will later conclude the origin and cause of this fire,” Jukiman said on Sunday. “But this takes time.”
Jukiman then told reporters on Monday that it could take “two to three” weeks for the forensics team to be in possession of the facts. Antara reported on Monday the police were coordinating with the provincial government to request CCTV footage, and were questioning five witnesses.
Meanwhile, Central Kalimantan’s education department said it was still working on a plan to enable local children to catch up on their studies. Schools in Palangkaraya have closed for a total of 34 days since the crisis began.
The fire in local government offices in Central Kalimantan came a day after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo visited provincial capital Palangkaraya.
Data from Indonesia’s disaster management agency show Central Kalimantan recorded 23,512 hotspots between September 1 and November 2, second only to South Sumatra province, which recorded 23,716.
In Central Java, the disaster management agency said 37 families were queuing to receive water on Monday following fires on Mount Merbabu. The province is battling a severe drought, and many village wells have been depleted since July.
On October 29 four people were burned to death in East Java while attempting to extinguish a forest fire in Ponorogo. Indonesian officials told the state-owned Antara news agency that the wind picked up suddenly, causing the blaze to spread and trap four men.
Indonesian media reported 150 military personnel were battling fires in Mount Merapi national park in Central Java on Monday. The alarm was first raised on Sunday, with reports that 200 hikers were trapped by fires after a fire started near an established trekking trail. Newspaper Kompas reported on Monday that around 100 military personnel were battling a blaze near the summit of Merapi. Data from Global Forest Watch showed only one high-confidence fire in the area on Monday evening, around 25 kilometers away in Klaten.
“Officials are still trying to extinguish the fire manually with simple equipment,” the regional head of the disaster management agency told Kompas. “The fire is difficult to extinguish because of the rugged terrain.”
Indonesia’s aeronautics agency, Lapan, said fires had destroyed a total of 2,089,911 hectares from July 1 through October 20.
That will certainly rise when the full cost of the disaster is known, but Lapan’s recent figure of more than 2 million hectares makes the affected area larger than New Jersey, or 238 times the size of Manhattan.
The agency said the fires had burned through 618,574 hectares of peat and 1,471,337 hectares of non-peat land.
A total of 832,999 hectares burned in Sumatra, while Kalimantan lost 806,817 hectares. The data show a vast area of Papua spanning 353,191 hectares has been burned.