Thick clouds hinder satellite imaging of Indonesia's fires
Muchlisin Arief, the head of the weather sattelite imaging department of the Indonesian Aerospace Agency (LAPAN), said only one hot spot was detected in Riau in Sumatra and 38 in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, on Monday but that fires might still be raging in both regions.
"That doesn't mean that the fires are gone, they just could not be detected," Arief told AFP.
But he refuted a statement by an environmental group that there were 800 hot spots in Riau.
"They were only bluffing. If that happened all the people in Riau would all be dead," he said.
A meteorological department official in Riau said the visibility level was at five kilometers (three miles), adding the skies were "bright" and flights were unhindered.
Indonesia is planning to set up a law enforcement team to help curb forest and ground fires and has set a two-week deadline for plantation owners in Sumatra and Kalimantan to put out the fires in their areas or face being brought to court.
The fires have provoked fears the country is headed for a rerun of the summers of 1997-98, when fires in Sumatra and Borneo covered much of the region with a choking haze.
The world Association of Crude Palm Oil (CPO) Importers has threatened to boycott Indonesian palm oil if Jakarta does not take immediate action to stop the forest fires from spreading.
Palm oil plantations in Riau and other Sumatra provinces are the main sources of the fires as despite an official ban many companies use fire as a cheap and method to clear the land for the next planting season.
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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 03/20/2000 23:39:13
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