An article by Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post.

The scourge of Sumatra returned on Wednesday, as haze blanketed the city of Medan and surrounding areas, disrupting flights at the Kuala Namu International Airport in Deli Serdang regency and Ferdinand Lumban Tobing Airport in Pinangsori, Central Tapanuli regency, North Sumatra.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) information and data section head, Mega Sirait, said visibility at Kuala Namu and Pinangsori airports only reached 400 meters at 7 a.m. local time.

“By 11:30 a.m., visibility at Kuala Namu airport improved to 4 kilometers, but not at the Pinangsori airport,” Mega said on Wednesday.

She added that this latest wave of haze originated from forest fires in a number of regions in the province.

She said that based on images from the Terra Aqua satellite taken at 5 a.m. local time, the number of forest fires in the province had reached 29.

Mega explained that seven hotspots were detected in Mandailing Natal regency, eight in Labuhanbatu, four in Central Tapanuli, three in South Tapanuli, three in Langkat, three in Karo and one in Padang Sidempuan.

She said the number of fires in North Sumatra had been fluctuating since February.

“The fires are driven mainly by people clearing forests by burning. This has become routine every year during the dry season. Perpetrators often take advantage of the drought to clear forest by burning,” said Mega.

Meanwhile, Pinangsori airport manager Ambar Suryoko said flights at the airport were delayed until noon on Wednesday due to the dense haze.

“Visibility is only 400 meters, thus unsafe for flights,” Ambar said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, unseasonably dry weather in Riau is being cited by climatology experts as an important factor in the proliferation of hotspots in various parts of the province in February and March.

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