Hazed out Riau's burning hell on earth

Pictures by: 
Mohd Ishak
Report by: 
Zul Othman

Politicians can talk and pontificate all they want but, on ground zero in Indonesia’s Riau province, it is the brave and hardy souls who are bearing the brunt of fires that never seem to die.

They are on the front line of the hot spots. And it is a painful, impossible task. Not least of their problems: How to fight fires with no water? How to go on fighting when your lungs are on fire?

At Rokan Hilir, a 10-hour drive from the Riau capital of Pekanbaru, we saw a group of firefighters, their faces stained by soot, battling a fire in one of the more remote parts of the area.

There are few accessible roads. In this remote, undeveloped area, they have difficulty finding water sources.

Fire hydrants?

You’ve got to be kidding. The air was thick with smoke but the sight of firefighters huddling through the bushes dragging water hoses attracted a horde of curious villagers who didn’t seem bothered by the dust particles in the air.

The flames were doused, but never completely tamed. Huge patches of scorched peatland were still smouldering, emitting heat and lots of smoke.

The article related to these pictures was first published in The New Paper on June 24, 2013.