Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, visited an area of Sumatra on Tuesday that has been among the hardest hit and said the government would seed clouds in the hope of bringing rain. He also said he would pray for rain.
He urged residents not to set fires and to put out new blazes immediately.
The president said 52 firefighting aircraft had been deployed in the fire zones in Kalimantan and Sumatra, roughly one for every 26 of the hot spots identified there.
“We are dealing with sizable forests, vast peatlands,” he told reporters. “If there are lots of fires like this, it’s not easy. Therefore I ask everybody, all the people, not to burn land, both forests and peat. ”
Last week, the government said it had shut down more than two dozen plantations after fires were spotted burning on their land, including four owned by Malaysian companies and one by a Singaporean firm.
The president’s chief of staff, a retired general named Moeldoko, sparked controversy last week with a tweet saying that the fires were a test from God.
“All disasters come from God,” he wrote, suggesting that the fires were not caused by people. “And what we need to do is not to complain but try to live it with sincerity and pray for God’s help.”
Richard C. Paddock reports on Southeast Asia and is based in Bangkok. He has worked as a foreign correspondent for more than a dozen years and reported from nearly 50 countries on five continents, including wartime Bosnia and Iraq.@RCPaddock