Indonesia welcomes foreign help as forest fires rage on


Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Thursday that he had asked foreign countries to help extinguish forest fires, which have produced haze blanketing much of South-east Asia.

His remarks were a departure from an earlier official refusal to accept foreign help and came as anger grew at home and in neighbouring countries over persistent pollution.

“Yesterday we asked for assistance and Singapore is ready to help,” Joko told reporters.

He said the city state was sending three aircraft that could carry up to 15 tons of water a sortie.

“Russia, Malaysia and Japan are also in the process [of sending personnel]” he said.

Haze from forest fires is an annual hazard in Indonesia and often spreads to other parts of South-East Asia including Singapore.

The practice of open burning to clear land for agriculture is illegal but common in Indonesia.