Seven hikers were killed and two seriously injured Sunday after being caught in a forest fire on a mountain on Indonesia’s Java island, authorities reportedly said Monday. The news comes at a time when the Southeast Asian nation is struggling to contain growing forest fires that have sent choking smoke blowing across the region for weeks.
The incident occurred on Mount Lawu on the border between the provinces of East and Central Java, a spokesman for the local search and rescue agency told the Associated Press (AP), adding that bodies of the victims were being sent to nearby hospitals.
"Seven of them were killed and two others are in critical condition as they sustained around 50 percent burns," local disaster agency official Agung Lewis told Agence France-Presse. "The area is actually closed for hiking because there had been previous cases of wildfires due to the dry weather, so we suspect these hikers could have used unofficial routes."
According to a local media report, cited by the AP, another hiking group of 13 high school students was evacuated safely from the area.
Indonesia has come under growing pressure in the past few weeks to contain the haze crisis, which has pushed up pollution to dangerous levels across parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and southern Thailand, disrupting flights and shutting schools. The haze is a result of Indonesians burning forests to make way for palm oil and paper plantations.
Last week, Malaysia and Singapore aircraft water-bombed parts of South Sumatra to fight forest fires.