Hundreds of new fires in Brazil as outrage over Amazon grows

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This fire, one of hundreds burning in the Amazon region, was photographed about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Porto Velho in northern Brazil's Rondonia state, on August 23, 2019 (AFP Photo/Carl de Souza)

Hundreds of new fires are raging in the Amazon rain forest in Brazil, official data showed Saturday, as thousands of troops were made available to help fight the worst blazes in years following a global outcry.

Multiple fires billowing huge plumes of smoke into the air were seen across a vast area of the northwestern state of Rondonia on Friday when AFP journalists flew over the area.

Several residents in the capital, Porto Velho, told AFP on Saturday that what appeared to be light clouds hanging over the city of half a million people, was actually smoke from the blazes that had scorched swaths of land and left tree trunks smoldering on the ground.

Protesters in the French city of Hendaye hold a sign intended for world leaders meeting at a G7 summit in nearby Biarritz; it reads ‘Heads of State, Act now, Amazon is Burning’ (AFP Photo/Georges Gobet)

“I’m very worried because of the environment and health,” Delmara Conceicao Silva told AFP.

“I have a daughter with respiratory problems and she suffers more because of the fires.”

The fires in the world’s largest rainforest have triggered a global uproar, and are a major topic of concern at the G7 meeting in Biarritz in southern France.

Official figures show 78,383 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil this year, the highest number of any year since 2013. Experts say the clearing of land during the months-long dry season to make way for crops or grazing, has aggravated the problem.

More than half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin, where more than 20 million people live. Some 1,663 new fires were ignited between Thursday and Friday, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

Map showing fires in the Amazon over the last 24 hours, with a satellite image showing smoke in the region. (AFP Photo/Simon Malfatto)

The new data came a day after Bolsonaro authorized deployment of the military to fight the fires and crack down on criminal activity.

Seven states, including Rondonia, have requested the army’s help in the Amazon, where more than 43,000 troops are based and available to combat fires, officials said. Firefighters and planes are also being deployed.

Six aircraft, including two Hercules C-130s equipped to carry 12,000 liters (3,170 gallons) of water each, have been sent to Rondonia to fight the fires. They are expected to be joined by 30 firefighters on Sunday.

By: Carlos Fabal, with Allison Jackson in Rio de Janeiro, AFP – August 25, 2019

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