The National Disaster Management Agency, Fire and Rescue teams, and communities across Bali continue to battle against raging fires across the island.
The first major fire broke out at the Suwung TPA landfill site on Thursday 12th October. As the mountain of trash keeps smoldering, more fires have broken out across the province.
The Suwung TPA fire continues to burn. Some experts have said that the fire could shoulder on for weeks as methane gas trapped beneath the dangerously dry mountain of waste remains a huge fire risk.
Teams have been working around the clock since Thursday morning to combat the blaze.
Helicopters have been dropping water bombs over the site; excavators are turning through the trash to help release the heat smoldering beneath and cut fire break lines across the 22-hectare site.
The impact this is having on local communities is huge. Trash pickers who usually comb the site searching for recyclable materials are unable to work.
Many live on the perimeter of the landfill site and have been exposed to dangerous amounts of toxic air over the last few weeks.
Unable to work and without anywhere safe to move to, communities and the social services have banded together to deliver aid in the form of masks, food, and water, and some of the most vulnerable families have been offered accommodation in nearby Serangan, though the air quality across Bali has been poor for days; and it’s affecting everyone.
Made Rentin, the Head of the Disaster Management Agency for Bali, told reporters, “Currently all residents (of the Suwung TPA settlement) are accommodated in the service room of the Sernagan Village Head Office.”
He added that his teams are discussing further evacuation plans around the island in case more residents are displaced by the fires.
Government buildings are being prepared as shelters and refugee tents, and essential equipment is on standby.
Footage of the fire and the impact the pollution is having on the community continues to circulate online. Residents, expats, and tourists have all shared their experiences, with many taking to social media to share stories of itchy and burning sensations in the eyes, and difficulty breathing.
Many parents have shared that their children have been suffering from sinus and chest infections for weeks without a bacterial infection or virus showing up in hospital testing.
While plumes of smoke can still be seen billowing from Suwung TPA, which sits just 7.5km from the beach resort of Kuta, another fire broke out at the Mandung TPA in Tabanan Regency over the weekend.
Firefighting crews managed to get the biggest flames under control by Sunday evening; footage from Sunday night shows that embers remain and the site continues to burn.
Mandung TPA is another open landfill site that sits 16km northwest of Tanah Lot Temple and 22km from the busy beaches of Canggu.
Firefighters from the National Disaster Agency, the army, the police, and the local community came out to battle the blaze.
A spokesman for the Tabanan Regency Government, Anak Agung Ngurah Trisna Dalem, told reporters, “Now we carry out a spraying operation every three hours. Even though there are no flames, we spray once every three hours until the fire is completely extinguished.”
In the early hours of Monday 16th, another fire broke out, this time at the open landfill site in Gianyar.
Teams moved quickly, and officials have confirmed that the flames at Temesi TPA were brought under control within a few hours.
However, like with Suwung TPA and Mandung TPA, the mountain of waste continues to smolder toxic smoke.
Wildfires are also still ablaze across the Karangasem Regency and now in the Buleleng Regency too.
These areas are prone to wildfires at this time of year. However, water shortages and difficult terrain are making it harder for firefighters to control the spread of the flames.
What can people in Bali do to stay safe from the impacts these fires are having on air quality?
Advice from the international air quality monitoring organization IQ Air recommends that when air pollution levels reach unhealthy levels, people must close windows and doors, avoid outdoor exercise, wear a mask outdoors, and where possible, run an air purifier to remove toxins from the air.
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