Thursday, October 8, 2015

SCDF ready to leave for Indonesia to fight fires, SE Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

SCDF ready to leave for Indonesia to fight fires, SE Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

SCDF ready to leave for Indonesia to fight fires

Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel and aircraft from the Singapore Armed Forces are standing by - ready to leave for Indonesia at a moment's notice.

This after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) received a formal note from Indonesia stating that it welcomes the "cooperation offered by Singapore to suppress (the) large-scale forest fires".

"Currently, we are awaiting further details from our Indonesian counterparts on the assets under our haze assistance package which Indonesia will require," an MFA spokesman said in response to queries from The Straits Times.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said yesterday that apart from Singapore, Russia and Malaysia will also help his country tackle the forest and peatland fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra. "We hope efforts to fight fires will be accelerated," he added.

Mr Joko had faced pressure from local politicians who told the government not to turn away foreign offers of help to fight the fires.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in a Facebook post last night that he was glad Indonesia accepted the help. Singapore had extended the offer several times but was turned down until now.

MFA said the assistance package includes a Chinook helicopter with a 5,000-litre heli-bucket for use in aerial firefighting and water-bombing operations. The heli-bucket will be operated by the SCDF's elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team.

A C-130 Hercules aircraft will be deployed for cloud seeding. When the operation will take place will ultimately depend on cloud conditions, the ministry said.

"A firefighting assistance team from the SCDF will be deployed to provide field assessment and planning assistance... (and) the team will be led by a senior SCDF officer, experienced in the conduct of rapid assessment for firefighting operations," added the MFA. "Up to two C-130 aircraft will be on standby to provide further support."

Singapore has also offered to share its high-resolution satellite pictures and hot-spot coordinates.

Indonesia's disaster management agency (BNPB) said yesterday that foreign assets will be deployed specifically in South Sumatra's Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin regencies, which are among the worst hit by peatland fires this year.

A coordination meeting will be held to discuss in detail such items as the type of assistance needed and the work flow, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Dr Ng said the Chinook, which was deployed to put out forest fires in Chiang Mai in March, stands ready and will take off once Indonesia gives the green light. He added: "In addition, we can follow up with a Super Puma helicopter with a 2,000-litre heli-bucket as needed."

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