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Study: 100,000 Deaths From Indonesia's Haze


A man rows a boat on Siak River as thick haze from wildfires blanket the city in Pekanbaru, Riau province, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The haze covered parts of neighboring Malaysia and Singapore for about a month.

A man rows a boat on Siak River as thick haze from wildfires blanket the city in Pekanbaru, Riau province, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. The haze covered parts of neighboring Malaysia and Singapore for about a month.

Researchers say a thick haze caused by man-made forest fires in Indonesia is the likely cause of more than 100,000 deaths.

The pollution also has been blamed for deaths in nearby Malaysia and Singapore. The haze has hurt relations between Indonesia and its neighbors.

Scientists from Harvard and Columbia Universities used a complex method to estimate the number of deaths from the haze. The number of deaths is far greater than the Indonesian government’s official number of 19 deaths.

Researchers estimated there were 91,600 deaths in Indonesia, 6,500 deaths in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore.

The fires in Indonesia last year were the worst since 1997.

An Indonesian firefighter carries a fire hose as he walks after fighting burning palm oil trees at a palm oil plantation at Jebus village in Muaro Jambi, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, September 16, 2015.

An Indonesian firefighter carries a fire hose as he walks after fighting burning palm oil trees at a palm oil plantation at Jebus village in Muaro Jambi, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, September 16, 2015.

Each year, fires are set in Indonesia's forests and in peat areas. Peat is a collection of dead plants. Burning is a fast and low-cost way to clear peat areas and land for palm oil and pulpwood production.

Rajasekhar Bals is an environmental engineering expert at the National University of Singapore. He told the Associated Press the study could be a "wake-up call" for Indonesia. He added that the country should take action to stop the fires. Bals said there must be cooperation throughout the area to deal with public health problems caused by the fires.

The activist group, Greenpeace, said the study is "groundbreaking." The organization known for protecting the environment also cautioned that the new numbers represent a "conservative estimate."

The study did not include the impact the haze has on children and future generations.

Nursyam Ibrahim is from the Indonesian Medical Association's West Kalimantan chapter. He told the media how Indonesian health workers have been overworked by the haze.

The study is to be published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

I’m Caty Weaver.

The staff at VOA News wrote this story. Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

hazen. dust, smoke, or mist that has filled the air so that you cannot see clearly

peatn. a dark material made of decaying plants that is burned for heat or added to garden soil

palm oiln. oil that is obtained from the fruit of some palm trees and used in cooking and in making soap and other products

pulpwoodn. wood suitable for making into pulp for making paper

groundbreakingadj. introducing new ideas or methods

wake-up calln. something that makes you fully understand a problem, danger or need

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