Indonesian haze reaches Mindanao, disrupts air traffic
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Haze from Indonesian forest fires has spread to Mindanao, disrupting air traffic and prompting warnings for residents to wear face masks, authorities said yesterday.

Mindanao is more than 1,200 kilometers from the nearest fires but the haze has become a  worsening problem over the past week, aviation authorities said.

Two domestic flights have been cancelled and dozens delayed at 10 airports on Mindanao since Oct. 16, affecting thousands of passengers, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) spokesman Eric Apolonio said.

Apolonio said, on some occasions, pilots could not see the airstrip as they were coming in to land.

“If you cannot see the runway it is very dangerous. You cannot always depend on instruments,” he told AFP.

Dense haze hung like a cloud of dust over Davao, Mindanao’s largest city with 1.5 million people, yesterday afternoon, plunging it under an early twilight.

Its airport, one of those affected according to Apolonio, handles 48 flights a day. 

With visibility down to 1.2 kilometers at some times during the day, aircraft are forced to circle and wait above the runways for up to an hour, according to Apolonio.

Pilots can normally see up to 10 kilometers, he added.

Apolonio said the flight delays were also disrupting the busy Manila airport, with some Mindanao-bound flights being held back.

Because Manila airport is operating at its full capacity of 40 landings and take-offs per hour, any delay involving Mindanao flights disrupts the aircraft queue for the rest of the day, he added.

For nearly two months, dense haze produced by Indonesian slash-and-burn farmers have suffocated vast expanses of Southeast Asia.

This has caused rates of respiratory illnesses to soar, schools to close and scores of flights and some international events to be cancelled.

Much of the burning is in peatlands being drained and cleared at a rapid rate to make way for agriculture.

Southern Philippines has not been badly impacted.

It may have worsened recently due to Typhoon Lando (Koppu), which hit northern Philippines on Oct. 18, drawing the haze towards it, state weather forecaster Victor Flores told AFP.

The haze was not so bad as to raise a medical alarm, but residents in affected areas are being advised to wear face masks, according to health department spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy.

“The content (of the smoke) is not that much but even small amounts of ash could trigger an asthma attack, or cardio-pulmonary obstructive disease,” he said.

In Zamboanga City, the haze that lingered in the southern skies in Mindanao since last week has affected weather monitoring, according to the local weather bureau. 

Affected were “the visibility and the observation of the amount of clouds. So due to the obstruction of haze our reports were limited,” Alan Gelani, of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said.

According to Gelani, the Air Transportation Office (ATO) has started to coordinate with them, complaining of poor visibility.

Meanwhile, City Health Officer Rodelyn Agbulos said there were  reports of residents in highland villages complaining of respiratory problems.         

                  

ACIRC AIR TRANSPORTATION OFFICE ALAN GELANI APOLONIO BECAUSE MANILA CITY HEALTH OFFICER RODELYN AGBULOS CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY OF THE PHILIPPINES ERIC APOLONIO HAZE MINDANAO NBSP
Philstar
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

SIGN IN
or sign in with