By Yenni Kwok
October 8, 2015

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said Thursday that he asked other countries — Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and Russia — to help put out forest fires that have caused choking air pollution across much of Southeast Asia for weeks.

The Southeast Asian haze is an annual occurrence — though this year’s could be among the worst ever. Blame for it is put on palm-oil and pulpwood companies burning forests to clear land for plantations.

In a statement released by the Cabinet Secretary, Jokowi said he hoped foreign assistance would “speed up the process” of eliminating the haze, which mostly affects Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, but this week has also reached southern Thailand, including the holiday island of Phuket.

Schools have been closed in cities and towns in the first three countries and events such as sports fixtures disrupted. Transport, especially aviation, has also been hard hit. During the month of September, the number of people suffering from acute respiratory-tract infections in the Indonesian town of Pekanbaru, one of the worst-hit areas, also jumped 250%.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia released on Wednesday aerial footage showing the destruction from the forest fires, as well as the massive underground peat fires in Indonesia’s Kalimantan region.

In the 4-minute, 28-second video, smoke eerily rises from the treetops and also emerges from the ground. The drone-shot footage also captures the devastation of burnt peatlands and acrid haze blanketing the city of Pontianak.

Peatland fires are particularly hard to tackle because they burn above and below ground.

“The government needs to give full protection to the remaining forests and peatlands,” Bustar Maitar, global head of Greenpeace’s Indonesia forest campaign, tells TIME. “Otherwise — if they keep allowing plantations on peatlands — they will let forest fires occur next year, and the following years to come.”

Greenpeace shot the film from Sept. 19 to 21 at various locations in West Kalimantan province, including peatlands newly cleared by palm-oil companies, and parts of Gunung Palung National Park, which is home to an orangutan population.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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