Indonesia fire could be worst on record: Nasa
Forest fires blanketing South-east Asia in choking haze are on track to become among the worst on record, scientists have warned.
The dry season may be prolonged hampering efforts to curb the crisis.
Malaysia, Singapore and large expanses of Indonesia have suffered for weeks from acrid smoke billowing from fires on plantations and peatlands that are being illegally cleared by burning.
But the current outbreak is one of the worst and longest-lasting in years.
The El Nino weather system has made conditions drier than usual in Indonesia and keeping much-needed rain at bay.
Scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) now warn this year’s outbreak is on a trajectory similar to 1997.
It was widely regarded as the most serious haze event on record — and could exceed those unprecedented levels.
“Conditions in Singapore and south-eastern Sumatra are tracking close to 1997,” Mr Robert Field, a Columbia University scientist based at Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was quoted as saying by the US science agency.
“If the forecasts for a longer dry season hold, this suggests 2015 will rank among the most severe events on record.”
Mr Herry Purnomo, a haze expert at the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Research, agreed the situation was akin to 1997, describing the magnitude of this year’s fires as “horrendous”.
“I believe the impact of the fires this year will be as bad as 1997, in terms of the cost,” he told AFP.