Indonesia has asked Australia to help it fight forest fires raging through Kalimantan and Sumatra that have created dangerously high levels of air pollution in the region.
An Australian firefighting team will begin arriving in Indonesia on Sunday to water bomb forest blazes that are shrouding the entire region in smog. The Australians will deploy to Sumatra ahead of a Hercules aircraft and a smaller, assistance aircraft arriving on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The L-100 Hercules can drop 15,000 litres water within seconds and is exactly what the region needs.
Jakarta Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Australia was among five “friendly” countries providing support. Russia, Malaysia, Singapore and China have also confirmed they would provide assistance, although the exact nature was not yet known.
The crisis has been exacerbated by drought across Indonesia and the prolonged dry season caused by El Nino.
Of 726 “hot spots” active in Sumatra, 613 are in the south, where the plane will be deployed.
Aircraft from Singapore and Malaysia have also joined the mission, but like the Australian team – on loan for seven days – their assistance is short-term.
Last month Indonesia refused Singapore’s offer of aircraft for cloud seeding and firefighting, saying the government was well equipped to handle the situation. However the haze has caused school closures, interruptions to sporting events, flight cancellations and thousands of respiratory illnesses across the region.