JAKARTA: Indonesia will decide soon whether it is necessary to declare the current forest fires and haze crisis a national emergency.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said the government would conduct a review before making a decision.
Mr Luhut was speaking to reporters on Friday (Oct 23) after he and other ministers met President Joko Widodo to discuss the haze issue before the president’s departure for the United States on Saturday.
Mr Luhut has pulled out of the US trip to oversee the crisis in Indonesia. He is expected to travel to Kalimantan on Saturday to assess the situation on the ground.
"But I wish to tell you that the actions that have been taken are at the level of a national emergency because we know that the people cannot wait anymore. We have already prepared our warships and other state-owned vessels to act as temporary shelters in Sumatra and Kalimantan," he said.
The ships, however, will only be used as a last resort if other efforts, including moving residents to government offices with air purifiers, prove unsuccessful, Mr Luhut added.
Indonesia earlier this month had asked several countries, including neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia and far-flung Russia, for aid, equipment and personnel to help combat the fires.
Noting the success of Russia's Be200 water bomber, Mr Luhut said he had requested similar aircraft assistance from Canada, the United States and France.