4-month-old baby dies in Indonesia, officials say respiratory infection from forest fire haze likely cause

This picture taken on September 14, 2019 shows Indonesian children resting at a clinic, used as a tempotary shelter, after they fled their homes due to the haze in Pekanbaru. (Photo by ADEK BERRY / AFP)
This picture taken on September 14, 2019 shows Indonesian children resting at a clinic, used as a tempotary shelter, after they fled their homes due to the haze in Pekanbaru. (Photo by ADEK BERRY / AFP)

A four-month-old infant reportedly died in the city of Palembang, South Sumatra yesterday, with the suspected cause of her death being haze from forest fires that have choked the region.

As reported by CNN Indonesia, the infant, named Elsa Pitaloka, began having difficulties breathing on Saturday. The village where she lived, Talang Buluh, in Banyuasin regency, has been shrouded in toxic haze for several weeks, affecting some 800 households.

Elsa’s parents and village officials took her to Palembang for treatment. Sadly, by around 6:30pm yesterday, Elsa succumbed to her illness.

“The specialist said that it’s likely to be ISPA (acute respiratory infection), maybe from bacteria, but we don’t know because there hasn’t been a thorough medical examination yet. Elsa was born healthy and normal, she had no disorders and her breathing problem came out of nowhere,” said Agus Darwanto, a Talang Buluh village official who assisted Elsa’s family in seeking treatment for the baby.

M. Hakim, who heads the Banyuasin Regency Health Agency, later said that the agency determined that Elsa died from pneumonia, likely from inhaling toxic haze particles.

“We implore citizens to wear face masks because of the harmful air quality and abundance of smog,” he said.

Related: Indonesians choked by forest fire haze pray for rain

Indonesia has been hit with a haze crisis annually, with the culprit usually being illegal fires set to clear huge swaths of land for farming on Sumatra and Borneo islands. In 2015, the worst year for forest fires in Indonesia in two decades, more than 500 thousand people suffered acute respiratory infections, 10 of whom died.

This year’s fires are said to be the worst since 2015.

In the province of Riau — also on Sumatra island — officials have extended the closure of schools until at least tomorrow in order to keep children indoors. Schools in the region have been closed since last week.

The fires in Indonesia have sent toxic smoke floating over Malaysia, triggering a diplomatic row. Nearby Singapore has also warned residents to reduce outdoor activities.

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