Jakarta, Oct 6 (IANS) Over 300,000 Indonesians were reported suffering from respiratory illnesses due to worsening haze conditions, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
Indonesian Health Minister Nila Moeloek disclosed that the figure of recorded respiratory patients jumped by around 20 percent since the start of the forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo islands in September, pushing the government to take greater measures to terminate the problem in the country, Xinhua news agency reported.
“The number of those suffering from acute respiratory problem has steeply hiked by 15 to 20 percent since three weeks ago,” she said.
South Sumatra, which has more population than the other five Indonesian provinces affected by the haze, recorded the largest number of patients, which stood at 83,276.
Combined, the six haze-affected provinces recorded 307,360 cases as of Monday.
Moeloek said that the ministry has sent tonnes of medicines and thousands of masks to haze-affected areas in the two islands.
The government has conducted the biggest air operation, involving helicopters, planes and thousands of soldiers, to stop forest fires that have spread haze to Singapore and Malaysia.
But dry weather, the vastness of affected territories and lack of water have hampered the operation.
The government has penalised four plantation firms for their involvement in the forest fires.
Indonesia has been battered by such forest fires since the 1990s, as the ensuing haze also engulfs neighbouring Asean countries and causes huge economic losses.