JAKARTA, October 20 (RIA Novosti) - Indonesia signed a contract with Russia Friday to rent two amphibious aircraft to fight forest fires blazing in two of the southeast Asian country's islands, a Russian emergencies ministry official said.
Yevgeny Filatov, leading a delegation to Indonesia, said the contract for two Be-200 planes was signed by Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry and Indonesia's National Coordinating Agency for Natural Disaster and Refugees Relief.
Filatov said he expected the lease to last one and a half months, and the planes will arrive in Indonesia before November 1.
Fires are raging on the islands of Kalimantan and Sumatra, and have engulfed hundreds of thousands of hectares of their territory, while smoke has covered part of neighboring Malaysia and all of Singapore, posing a major health threat to the population.
The multipurpose turbofan Be-200 can be used as a firefighter, a cargo plane, a flying ambulance, and a passenger airliner. In its firefighting configuration, it can pick up 12 tons (26,460lb) of water by skimming over the water's surface, making it an effective weapon in extinguishing forest fires, a role in which it is used by Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry.
The Indonesian president's spokesman said the planes currently in use in the country can only carry up to 4,000 liters of water and have to return to an airport for more water, and suggested that more contracts could be signed with Russia.
"We hope for further long-term cooperation with Russia in this sphere, as fires on Sumatra and Kalimantan recur every year," Dino Patti Djalal said.
Regular wildfires have destroyed vast areas of forest in Indonesia in recent years, bringing local species close to extinction, and releasing massive volumes of carbon emissions. The fires have reached the scale of a regional calamity this year due to the particularly hot and dry weather.