Indonesia is deploying thousands of security personnel to fight fires after a state of emergency was declared in six provinces, an official from the disaster management agency said Wednesday.
Nearly 6,000 military, police and disaster mitigation officers will be dispatched, while aircraft will also try to douse the fires, Agus Wibowo, a spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said, according to Reuters.
Fires are an annual occurrence during Indonesia’s dry season, which normally runs from about June to October. The blazes — largely caused by illegal slash-and-burn farming methods by palm oil and pulpwood companies — cause serious haze problems in Indonesia and neighboring countries.
This year, nearly 50 million of Indonesians are facing drought conditions in 28 of the country’s 34 provinces, Dody Usodo Hargo Suseno, an official of the coordinating ministry for human development, told Reuters. An El Niño weather pattern is exacerbating the dry weather.
Wibowo said the number of hot spots detected by satellites has been increasing across Indonesia. The fires raging in provinces on the island of Sumatra and in Kalimantan on Borneo were severe enough to declare an emergency.
Fires in 2015, when El Niño caused droughts in a majority of the country’s provinces, were some of the worst in Indonesia’s history. More that half a million people were treated for respiratory illnesses.
Since then, Indonesia has faced international pressure tackle the slash-and-burn tactics that prompt annual fires. Residents in Singapore and Malaysia often face health issues when their cities are shrouded in pollution for weeks every year.
Earlier this month, Indonesia’s disaster management agency said that they would use cloud seeding to try to trigger rainfall to prevent fires and harvest failure, Reuters reports.