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Haze from bush fires in Indonesia threatens to envelope neighbors

JAKARTA, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Bush fires in Riau province of Sumatra Island, Indonesia, has widened, with haze likely to spread to Singapore and Malaysia, an official revealed here on Wednesday.

The number of hot spots reached 386 in the island on Wednesday morning, compared with 236 on Monday, according to satellite Tera observation, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the national disaster agency.

Some 95 percent of the hot spots are found in Riau province, which is very close to Singapore and Malaysia.

"This condition needs to be cautioned because the direction of wind is more dominant to northeast-east," Sutopo told Xinhua via phone.

He warned that low rate of downpour is expected within the next several months, and the potential of haze to spread to Singapore and Malaysia keeps rising should the fires not be totally stopped.

Sutopo said that report on the condition has been conveyed to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has directly been in charge of the operation to put out the bushfire in the area from the beginning of this year.

Riau province, the centre of the world's largest palm oil industry, witnesses thousands of fires each dry season as farmers clear land to make way for plantation expansion.

Sutopo disclosed that based on the pattern from 2006 to 2013, hot spots dominantly appeared from June to October with peak in August.

But a huge fire also occurred early this year, with haze enveloping neighboring countries, disturbing flight, causing a huge financial loss and leaving about 58,000 people suffering from respiration problem.

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