You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Amazon burning: Brazil reports record forest fires

Reuters logo Reuters 8/20/2019 By Lisandra Paraguassu
a blurry photo of a fire: A man works in a burning tract of Amazon jungle as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba © Reuters/BRUNO KELLY A man works in a burning tract of Amazon jungle as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba

By Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest have hit a record number this year, with 72,843 fires detected so far by Brazil's space research center INPE, as concerns grow over right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro's environmental policy.

a group of palm trees next to a tree: An tract of Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba © Reuters/BRUNO KELLY An tract of Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba

The surge marks an 83% increase over the same period of 2018, the agency said on Tuesday, and is the highest since records began in 2013.

Since Thursday, INPE said satellite images spotted 9,507 new forest fires in the country, mostly in the Amazon basin, home to the world's largest tropical forest seen as vital to countering global warming.

Images show the northernmost state of Roraima covered in dark smoke. Amazonas declared an emergency in the south of the state and in its capital Manaus on Aug. 9. Acre, on the border with Peru, has been on environmental alert since Friday due to the fires.

a group of palm trees: A tract of Amazon jungle is seen burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba © Reuters/BRUNO KELLY A tract of Amazon jungle is seen burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba

Wildfires have increased in Mato Grosso and Para, two states where Brazil's agricultural frontier has pushed into the Amazon basin and spurred deforestation. Wildfires are common in the dry season, but are also deliberately set by farmers illegally deforesting land for cattle ranching.

A charred trunk is seen on a tract of Amazon jungle that was recently burned by loggers and farmers in Iranduba © Reuters/BRUNO KELLY A charred trunk is seen on a tract of Amazon jungle that was recently burned by loggers and farmers in Iranduba

The unprecedented surge in wildfires has occurred since Bolsonaro took office in January vowing to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining, ignoring international concern over increased deforestation.

Asked about the spread of uncontrolled fires, Bolsonaro brushed off criticism, saying it was the time of the year of the "queimada" or burn, when farmers use fire to clear land.

"I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame. But it is the season of the queimada," he told reporters.

Space agency INPE, however, said the large number of wildfires could not be attributed to the dry season or natural phenomena alone.

"There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average," said INPE researcher Alberto Setzer.

People frequently blame the dry season for the wildfires in the Amazon, but that is not quite accurate, he said.

a group of palm trees next to a tree: A charred trunk is seen on a tract of Amazon jungle that was recently burned by loggers and farmers in Iranduba © Reuters/BRUNO KELLY A charred trunk is seen on a tract of Amazon jungle that was recently burned by loggers and farmers in Iranduba

"The dry season creates the favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident," Setzer said.

a view of a city with smoke coming out of it: Smoke from fires in Porto Velho, Rondonia, a northern Brazilian state on the border with the Amazonian rainforest © Reuters/ANTONIO LEOPOLDO Smoke from fires in Porto Velho, Rondonia, a northern Brazilian state on the border with the Amazonian rainforest

Bolsonaro recently fired the director of INPE after he criticized agency statistics showing an increase in deforestation in Brazil, saying they were inaccurate.

a blurry image of a car: Smoke from fires in Porto Velho, Rondonia, a northern Brazilian state on the border with the Amazonian rainforest © Reuters/ANTONIO LEOPOLDO Smoke from fires in Porto Velho, Rondonia, a northern Brazilian state on the border with the Amazonian rainforest

"I am waiting for the next set of numbers, that will not be made up numbers. If they are alarming, I will take notice of them in front of you," he told reporters.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu, writing Anthony Boadle; Editing by Tom Brown)

UP NEXT
UP NEXT
AdChoices
AdChoices

View the full site

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon