Rain, wind bring blue skies to SE Asia

  • 29/10/2015
Rain, wind bring blue skies to SE Asia

Rain and favourable winds have brought blue skies to vast areas of Southeast Asia stricken for weeks by hazardous smoke from Indonesian fires, with officials expressing hope the crisis could end soon.

Parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore enjoyed their clearest skies in weeks, while affected areas of the Philippines and Thailand also have seen an end to air pollution that has sickened tens of thousands across the region and caused flight cancellations and school closures.

Malaysia's top weather forecaster went so far as to declare that the region's rainy season, feared delayed by the El Nino weather phenomenon, prolonging the environmental disaster, was beginning.

"The northeast monsoon has arrived. It is the raining season for Malaysia," said Che Gayah Ismail, director-general of the country's Meteorological Department on Thursday (local time).

"We should have blue skies and no more haze because the northeast monsoon winds will blow the haze from Indonesia's forest fires into the Indian Ocean," she said.

Indonesian authorities were more guarded, but also said further rains were expected.

Recent rainfall on the huge islands of Sumatra and Borneo, where hundreds of forest and agricultural fires have smouldered for weeks, have helped reduce the smoke clouds, said Indonesia's disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

Affected communities "welcomed this with joy and said grace after two months of being held captive to haze", Sutopo said in a statement.

The rains there included both natural precipitation and artificially induced showers from cloud-seeding, he added.

Indonesia's national weather agency has forecast more rain, which will allow for further extensive cloud-seeding activities, Sutopo said.