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Sumatran Blazes Cast Smoky Shadow September 9, 2011
MODIS image of Sumatra.
"The hot spots indicate forest fires and people who had deliberately set fire to open up new cultivation land." — West Sumatra Meteorology and Geophysics Agency
A thick pall of smoke is blanketing much of southern Sumatra and neighboring parts of Singapore and Malaysia as the illegal and seasonal burning of forests and fields gets underway.

NASA satellite images revealed 85 new hot spots that were spewing smoke across South Sumatera, Lampung, Bengkulu and Riau provinces.

The Antara news agency reports motorists are being urged to turn on their headlights even during the day to accommodate the low visibility caused by the smoke.

Health officials regularly advise residents affected by the smoke to wear facemasks and avoid outdoor activities when the smoke becomes thick.

A particularly extensive layer of thick smoke from Sumatran fires in 2006 prompted Indonesia’s president to apologize to officials downwind in Southeast Asia for not controlling the illegal blazes.

Image: NASA MODIS Rapid Response System