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Illegal Indonesian Fires Create Choking Smoke May 29, 2009
Satellite Image of Sumatra smoke cloud
A thick cloud of smoke can be seen blowing over Malaysia and Singapore on Tuesday from hundreds of fires buring on neighboring Sumatra.
Smoke from more than a hundred illicit fires burning to clear forest or fields on Sumatra brought a pall of smoke that forced officials to close schools and advise people to remain indoors.

Health officials say that upperw-respiratory ailments have increased sharply in Riau province and other parts of Sumatra as the annual plague of forest and plantation fires pumped huge clouds of smoke into the atmosphere.

Indonesia banned the practice of open-field burning in 1999 after the widespread fires of 1997 and 1998 brought a choking haze that caused a public health crisis across some Southeast Asian nations.

Wildlife advocates say that the ban has not been effective in curbing agricultural burning, or the fires used to clear the forest to expand plantations.

Image: NASA MODIS Rapid Response System
(Terra Satellite)