For nearly two months, thousands of fires caused by slash-and-burn farming in Indonesia have choked vast expanses of Southeast Asia. This has forced schools to close and scores of flights and some international events to be cancelled. An estimated half a million people have suffered respiratory illnesses since the fires started in July 2015.
Indonesia's disaster agency had previously stated that the fires had killed 10 people, some of whom died while fighting the blazes and others from the pollution. But the country's social minister confirmed that the death toll had risen to 19.
AdvertisementKhofifah Indar Parawansa said, "As of this morning, there are nineteen people who have died from the effects of haze. The victims were all from Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia's half of Borneo island, where fires have been deliberately lit by farmers wanting to quickly and cheaply clear land."
President Joko Widodo has planned to tour the worst-hit regions later this week, having cut short his visit to the United States to deal with the crisis. Three warships are on standby in Kalimantan in case a large-scale evacuation is needed. Temporary shelters are being rapidly built to house those fleeing the toxic smog.