An estimated 30,000 people in Riau province, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, have fallen ill after excessive exposure to air pollution caused by slash and burn farming on the island, according to Australian news outlet SBS.
“Cases of respiratory infections and other illnesses such as pneumonia, asthma and eye and skin irritation are increasing,” National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho told the agency.
Officials have said there are reportedly 330 “hot-spots” where fires are burning. Authorities have arrested close to 30 people for starting fires and are using aircraft to battle the blazes.
Several Southeast Asian nations, including Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, are plagued by high-levels of air pollution caused by the annual brush fires during the spring, when farmers burn their fields to prepare the ground for planting.