Indonesia has announced that it is ready to accept international help to combat forest and agricultural fires that have engulfed Southeast Asia in smog after weeks of failed attempts to put out the fires, Indonesian officials announced today.
Regional relations have been strained in recent weeks as Indonesia has consistently refused offers of help from Singapore and other regional partners despite being ineffective at dousing the fires. The result has been weeks of acid smog that have clouded Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, which have prompted school closures and the cancellation of outdoor events.
Even though the haze is an annual affair, scientists warn that this year’s El Nino effect has caused Indonesia’s forests to take on a tinder-dry condition that are all too conducive for forest fires.
So far Jakarta has deployed 25,000 personnel and aircraft to combat the fires on Sumatra and Borneo, but their firefighters have been overwhelmed by the ferocity of the fires.
According to Indonesian officials, Indonesian President Joko Widodo had announced yesterday that international assistance would now be accepted at a cabinet meeting.
“It was agreed that we will cooperate with a number of our partners in our efforts to suppress the forest fires,” foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said.
“We are working with a number of countries including Singapore.”
Other countries who may help Indonesia in tackling the fires include Malaysia, Russia, Australia and China. However, the specifics have not yet been agreed upon.