JAKARTA – Indonesia has begun seeding clouds in an attempt to create rain to extinguish blazes that have choked Singapore and Malaysia with smog, officials said Sunday, while launching investigations into plantation firms suspected of starting the fires.
The pollution index dropped to “moderate” in Singapore on Sunday after having hit “hazardous” levels but the smog intensified in Malaysia, with its government declaring a state of emergency in two southern districts.
An aircraft with cloud-seeding equipment managed to unleash rain over Bengkalis district on Sumatra Island late Saturday, where some of the biggest fires are raging, Indonesian Disaster Management Agency official Agus Wibowo said.
“We will continue our cloud-seeding operations today (Sunday) using two aircraft,” he said.
Wibowo said the Pollution Standards Index in Riau province, where the fires are burning, exceeded the hazardous 400 level in several locations.
Three helicopters also dropped water to douse fires on hundreds of hectares of carbon-rich peatland that have sent smoke billowing across neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.
Indonesian police said eight companies are suspected of having carried out the burning. “They are suspected to be Malaysian,” Riau provincial police spokesman Hermansyah said.