JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Several thousand schools have been closed in an Indonesian province to protect children from thick, noxious haze as deliberately set fires burn through peatland forest.
Indonesia's Disaster Mitigation Agency said firefighting measures went full force, including aerial water drops, to battle the fires in worst-hit Riau province.
Deliberately set fires in Indonesia's peatland forests each year spread health-damaging haze across much of Southeast Asia.
Riau provincial secretary Ahmad Syah Harofie said Wednesday the air pollutant index hit the hazardous level in Riau's capital, Pekanbaru, and was very unhealthy in many other areas. Several thousand Riau schools have been ordered closed since Tuesday.
The province's health office data showed nearly 300,000 people suffered respiratory illnesses since January when Riau and five other provinces declared states of emergency due to forest fires.