Haze from Indonesia forest fires covers Mindanao skies

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/22 October) — The haze believed to have been caused by the forest fires in Indonesia has continued to affect the skies over Mindanao, five days after it was first spotted over General Santos City last Sunday.

Victor Flores, weather specialist at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geographical and Astronomical Services Administration in El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental said the haze could still be seen over the skies in Mindanao especially in the early mornings and late afternoons.

Flores said visibility over the affected skies dropped from the normal 20 kilometers to only 10 kilometers. He said visibility was worse last Sunday when it was first spotted.

“Last Sunday was the worse at only eight kilometers visibility,” he said.

He noted that the prevailing southwesterly winds continued to bring hazardous air pollutants from Sumatra in Indonesia to Mindanao.

The almost weeklong haze has already caused the cancellation of several flights in Cotabato City and at least one person was hospitalized in General Santos city after complaining of “difficulty in breathing.”

The prevailing winds also affected Cebu City and the rest of the country in early October.

“There will some respiratory problems because of the presence of dust, particles and moisture in the air,” Flores said.

Flores said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Environmental Management Bureau has already conducted several tests over the skies of Mindanao cities but the result has yet to be made public.

In General Santos City, Maysheen Collong, information officer of the EMB in Region 12, said she could not make any conclusion as of the moment whether the monitored haze really came from the forest fires in Indonesia. (see related story)

“The prevailing wind patterns in the region are not from Indonesia so it’s still a big question mark. Right now we’re studying all possible situations, including observations that the foggy or hazy atmosphere was actually caused by low cloud formations,” Collong added.

But Dante Arriola, Pagasa senior weather observer in General Santos City said their assessment showed the haze could have come from the raging forest fires in parts of Sumatra in Indonesia. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)