International efforts to douse raging Indonesia fires will fail and Southeast Asia could face several more weeks of choking smoke until the rainy season starts, Malaysia’s environment minister warned.
Facing growing pressure, Indonesia earlier this month agreed to accept international help after failing for weeks to douse the fires from slash-and-burn farming that have shrouded angry neighbours Malaysia and Singapore in smoke for weeks.
But Malaysia was forced once again to close schools in several areas Monday due to unhealthy air, and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the crisis could continue for another month.
“Unless there is rain, there is no way human intervention can put out the fires,” he told on the sidelines of Malaysia’s parliament session, warning that the blazes were spread across “huge areas” of Indonesia.
Even the multi-nation effort now under way “is not enough to put out the fires,” he added.
“We hope the rains will come in mid-November. It will be able to put out the fires,” Wan Junaidi said.
On Friday, Indonesia launched its biggest fire-fighting assault yet, with dozens of planes and thousands of troops battling the illegally started agricultural and forest fires in its territory on the huge islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
Thirty-two planes and helicopters — including six aircraft from Singapore, Malaysia and Australia — were deployed to back up more than 22,000 personnel on the ground.