The worst drought in 50 years hits the country. Hundreds of forest fires—many deliberately set by unscrupulous companies to clear land—burn out of control for the last half of 1997, creating a cloud of smoke that chokes the entire region. The cloud sends air pollution levels rocketing throughout Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Thailand. An airliner crash, and the collision of two ocean ships, are blamed on the smoke blanket. The streets of Jakarta and other regional cities are filled with citizens wearing gas masks, or at minimum, holding moistened rags to their mouths.
Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed/Archive Photos