Central Banker Families Flee Borneo Town as Haze Hazardous

  • Pollution at triple hazardous levels in Kalimantan, Sumatra
  • Indonesia central bank branch stocks up water as schools shut

Indonesia’s central bank has evacuated the families of its staff in a regional capital on Borneo, as haze from Indonesian forest fires reaches hazardous levels on the island.

Bank Indonesia paid for the families in Pontianak, in West Kalimantan province, to move to the coast further north, where sea breezes and air conditioning reduced the effect of the smoky air, said Dwi Suslamanto, the head of the central bank in West Kalimantan. Around 125,000 people in Indonesia are suffering health issues from the haze, Willem Rampangilei, the head of the country’s disaster mitigation agency, said on Thursday.

“We can’t rely on human effort to manage this disaster,” said Suslamanto, who has been asking Bank Indonesia headquarters in Jakarta for supplies such as clean water. “Our only hope is for the rain, and for the people who started the fires to not repeat what they did.”

Pollution from the burning of Indonesian forests has been worst felt in Borneo and Sumatra, shutting schools and leading to increased respiratory illnesses, while winds have worsened the haze in Singapore and Malaysia. The government of Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo is investigating more than 100 companies with blazes on their land, and the disaster agency aims to extinguish the fires by early November.

A gauge of tiny air-pollution particles reached 989 in Palangkaraya in Kalimantan, and 950 in Palembang on Sumatra, almost three times the 350 level considered hazardous, the country’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said on its website. In Singapore, a three-hour pollution index was at a “unhealthy” level on Thursday.

Baby Shelter

Pekanbaru, on Sumatra across the Malacca Strait from Singapore, is providing a shelter for hundreds of babies from poor families to help protect them. Indonesia’s central bank has also urged families and children of its workers in Palembang in Sumatra to evacuate to the southern tip of the island, where the air quality is better.

“The situation is no longer worth it for working or going to school,” said Andhika Ullya Tovano, in Jambi, Sumatra. “Children are dismissed from school, but it’s useless as they’re still playing outside because there’s no special warning from the government despite the hazardous status.”

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