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Dry season sparks fires engulfing Indonesian landfills

ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – A number of cities in Central and West Java are struggling to douse fires engulfing their landfills, with the hot temperature of this year’s prolonged, El Niño-induced dry season triggering fires.

The Putri Cempo landfill in Surakarta, Central Java was the latest, with the fire first breaking out on Saturday. Up to date, it has burned two hectares (ha) of the mountains of trash.

Authorities suspect that the fire was triggered by the high temperatures experienced during the prolonged dry weather.

The Central Java weather station previously issued a drought warning for several cities and regencies in the province, including Surakarta.

“Our analysis for now shows that the high temperature sparked the methane gas formed by the mountain of trash,” said Surakarta Environment Agency head Kristiana Hariyanti.

Methane, a flammable gas, is often found in landfill sites as the natural by-product of the decomposition of organic waste, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Firefighters at Putri Cempo landfill in Surakarta, Central Java. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

Firefighters are still struggling to put out the fire in the 17ha landfill.

Changing wind directions and the vast pile of flammable waste caused the fire to spread quickly, hindering the extinguishing efforts, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

A total of 45 firefighter units from local disaster mitigation and fire agencies around Surakarta had been deployed as of Monday to Putri Cempo.

“We also have received a request from the Surakarta municipality administration for a waterbombing operation to put out the fire in the landfill,” BNPB emergency management deputy Fajar Setyawan said on Monday in a statement.

The fire in Putri Cempo caused a haze over several residential areas around the landfill.

Around 200 residents in Mojosongo subdistrict have complained about health issues felt by vulnerable groups, including respiratory problems affecting children and elderly people, according to the Surakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Health workers from Mojosongo administration provided treatment for the affected.

Authorities have also distributed face masks and advised residents living around 50 metres (m) from the landfill to evacuate, although most decided to stay home.

The Putri Cempo fire is among the latest incidents hitting landfills across Java.

A fire also broke out at the Jatibarang landfill in Semarang, Central Java on Monday.


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