Indonesia’s forest fire spreads to major island

Jakarta, Oct 19 (IANS) A forest fire in Indonesia has expanded to another major island of Sulawesi as satellite observation has detected hundreds of hot spots, a disaster management agency official said on Monday.

The expansion takes place as Indonesia, with foreign help, is scrambling to douse the blaze in the two main islands of Sumatra and Borneo, Xinhua news agency reported.

Terra Aqua Satellite detected 801 hot spots in the Sulawesi island earlier on Monday, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the national disaster management agency disclosed.

The satellite also recorded 224 hot spots in Papua, Maluku and East and West Nusa Tenggara, Sutopo told Xinhua news agency.

Burning during land clearing for new plantations is blamed for the fire in Sulawesi , he said.

For the whole country, the satellite detected at least 1,545 hot spots.

The Indonesian government has launched the biggest ever operation to combat the regular forest fires, involving 32 aircraft and more than 22 soldiers and police along with help from neighbouring Asean countries, as well as Australia and Japan.

Indonesia, home to the world’s largest palm oil industry, has endured forest fires as people burned land during land clearing for new plantations.

The country has been battered by forest fires since the 1990s, but this year they have been further heightened by the El Nino phenomenon.

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