JAKARTA: Indonesia has put warships on standby to evacuate people affected by acrid haze from forest fires which has killed at least 10 and caused respiratory illnesses in half a million, officials said Saturday.
For nearly two months, thousands of fires caused by slash-and-burn farming in Indonesia have choked vast expanses of Southeast Asia, forcing schools to close and scores of flights and some international events to be cancelled.
Indonesian disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the fires had killed 10 people, some fighting the blazes while others died of respiratory illnesses or medical conditions exacerbated by the pollution.
“The impact of the forest fires has caused 10 people in Sumatra and Kalimantan to die, directly and indirectly,” Nugroho said.
The figure did not include seven hikers killed in a wildfire on Java last week.
The agency estimated at least half a million people have suffered from respiratory illness since the fires started in July and 43 million people have been affected by the widespread fires and haze in the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Nugroho said the figure was likely just the tip of the iceberg because many people did not go to health facilities for treatment.
The government has decided to send ships to haze affected provinces to evacuate victims, especially children and women, if necessary, with two warships deployed to Kalimantan on Friday.
“For now the ships will be standing by. We will begin evacuation when there is an instruction from the government,” navy spokesman Muhammad Zainuddin told Agence France-Presse.