The haze in Indonesia has gotten into a level where it could already be described as a “crime against humanity of extraordinary proportions,” Sutopo Puro Nugroho, spokesperson for the Metereology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said.
The agency said that 43 million people have been inhaling toxic fumes since July on Sumatra and Kalimantan islands. There already been 500,000 people sick with acute respiratory tract infections and ten people have died.
This figure excluded unreported cases which means there could be more. Despite of the calamity, “now is not the time to point fingers but to focus on how we can deal with this quickly,” Nugroho said as quoted by The Guardian.
The Guardian is reporting that six Indonesian provinces have declared a state of emergency. The haze has already reached neighboring countries. Schools, flights and events were already cancelled in Singapore and Malaysia.
The Indonesian Council of Ulema believes it is wise to held mass prayers for rain to come. President Joko Widodo sent in 30 aircrafts and 22,000 troops to fight fires; warships were also deployed in case an immediate evacuation is needed. Singapore, Australian and Japan have sent in assistance. All this however is not enough.
On Monday, Mr. Widodo was compelled to cut short his trip in U.S. because he is immediately needed in his country, Reuters reported. Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said the president will return a day earlier than scheduled and will no longer be visiting the west coast.
He unfortunately had to back out from a meeting with Apple and Google in Silicon Valley which was scheduled on Wednesday. The meeting was significant for it could have been a channel to attract the two tech giants to invest in Indonesia. In a statement, Mr. Widodo said he had asked several of his ministers to proceed with the meetings with Apple and Google.
Mr. Widodo and President Barack Obama were able to meet on Monday and the two leaders discussed climate change. Mr. Widodo described his meeting with Mr. Obama as a “thorough discussion.” Both leaders agreed to work together in order to arrive at the strongest possible solutions about climate change.