Thousands of men have been mobilized in Brazil to fight the hundreds of new forest fires raging across the country. International pressure increased on Saturday (August 24th) to push Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to act.
New fires since Friday
The latest official data indicates that 78,383 fires have been recorded since January, a record since 2013. More than half of these fires are in the Amazon, where more than 20 million people live. 1,663 new fires broke out between Thursday 22 and Friday 23 August, according to the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE).
The boss of the INPE was sacked in early August after publishing data on deforestation deemed untrue by Jair Bolsonaro: they showed that in July, it was almost four times higher than that recorded during the same month of 2018 .
To read: Bolsonaro alone against all
In the Amazon, when a forest is cleared, the trunks are washed away but the rest of the vegetation is burned on site during the dry season, which lasts from July to November. For farmland, or grasslands, vegetation and weeds are also piled up, waiting for the dry season. That's what's burning right now, say the experts.
43,000 soldiers are available
The Brazilian president has decided by decree, from Saturday, August 24 and for a period of one month, that the governors of states concerned by fires are allowed to use the military to fight against the flames and fight crime in the region .
So far, seven states, including Rondonia, have appealed to the military. 43,000 soldiers permanently based in the Amazon are available to fight fires, said Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva.
To read: the fear of a heavy ecological balance
Six firefighters were sent to the scene, including two C-130 Hercules from the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), capable of carrying 12,000 liters of water. A brigade of 30 firefighters must leave Brasilia Sunday, August 25.
" Any help is welcome "
US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have offered their help. " Any help with fires is welcome Saturday, August 24, told reporters the Brazilian Minister of Defense.
In South America, Brazil is the country most affected by forest fires in 2019, followed by Venezuela (26,453) and Bolivia (16,101).
In Bolivia, fires that have been out of control for about two weeks are still in progress. Since May, about 744,000 hectares have gone up in smoke in the east of the country, with a strong upsurge in August.
These fires are caused by the practice of slash-and-burn agriculture used by farmers. They believe that it improves soil quality for sowing.
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