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Forest and land fires reappear in Riau

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Hot spots return due to high temperatures and errant practices

RIAU, INDONESIA: Forest and land fires have begun to threaten Riau again with an increasing number of hot spots detected.

Pekanbaru Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) head, Mr Sugarin, said the hot spots were first detected by satellites on Sunday.

"At that time, six hot spots were detected. The following day the number increased to seven, with hot spots in Siak, Pelalawan and Kuantan Singingi," he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said more hot spots were detected in Rokan Hulu, Rokan Hilir and Siak, with another on Meranti Island.

"Four of the hot spots were indicated as fire-linked hot spots with a reliability level of over 70 per cent," Mr Sugarin said, adding that hot spots were also detected in other provinces in Sumatra.

The reappearance of the hot spots, Mr Sugarin said, might be caused by high temperatures, which hit 34.5 deg C, and rampant slash-and-burn practices.

He added that Riau would enter the dry season next month, which was expected to last until March.

He said: "The condition makes the forests and land prone to fires."

According to Mr Sugarin, of the 12 regencies or cities in Riau, the most fire-prone regions were Rokan Hilir, Siak, Bengkalis, Dumai and Meranti Island in the eastern coastal area.

This does not mean that other regions are safe from forest and land fires. As for the heat in Riau, Mr Sugarin it was caused by the minimal forming of clouds over the province in the past week.

He said an inter-agency meeting would be held today to follow up on the developments, as well as the current atmosphere phenomena.

Riau Environment and Forestry Agency head, Ms Yulwiriati Moesa, confirmed the reappearance of forest and land fires in Riau, saying that since Sunday, over 100ha of land inside the Bukit Betabuh protected forest area in Kuantan Singingi regency was on fire and had not been fully extinguished.

"The forest is located on a hill and it's difficult for firefighters to move around (to put out the fires)," Ms Yulwiriati said.

She said the situation had been reported to the Riau governor with the hope that the report would be forwarded to the Environment and Forestry Ministry for further action.

"Hopefully, the central government will send helicopters soon to Riau," she added.