On the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, plantation owners are illegally burning down forests to gain more farming land. Because of the dry weather, caused by El Niño, fires keep raging uncontrolled for over 3 months now. The haze is causing thick smog which is affecting the Indonesian economy and neighboring countries. Thousands of people in Indonesia and Malaysia already needed medical care for respiratory problems.

These fires do not only affect the Indonesian population but also the people in the neighboring countries: Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. The Malaysian government warned its inhabitants to stay inside.

According to Greenpeace, these annual fires are responsible for 110,000 people in the area dying of inhaling smog.

Singapore has offered aircrafts and helicopters to help put out the fires and expand cloud-seeding operations.

Burning peat produces large quantities of carbon dioxide and 10 times more methane than any other fire. This puts Indonesia in the top 5 of most polluting countries.

The fires are not only a menace to humans but also to the animals living in the Indonesian forests. Over 500 orangutans with respiratory problems have been treated by local animal protection organizations. The Sumatran tiger and Sumatran elephant, endemic animals on the island of Sumatra, are seriously in danger because of the raging fires burning down their habitat.

The Indonesian police already arrested seven company executives responsible for the illegal fires and the government announced they will charge all responsible companies to pay for caused damages.

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The previous disastrous fires started in the middle of 1997 and lasted well into 1998. They were among the largest forest fires in history and produced between 13 and 40% of world’s annual carbon emissions. These fires were also accelerated by El Niño. This weather phenomenon, which occurs every 5 to 10 years, refers to the long term warming of the surface water of the Pacific Ocean, which affects the high and low pressure areas. El Niño affects the whole world: the absence of the normal winds cause extreme drought in Australia and Indonesia while Central-America receives abnormal rain fall. El Niño is a result of the global warming of the earth.