Thousands of men have been mobilized in Brazil to fight the hundreds of new forest fires raging across the country, the most devastating in the Amazon in recent years, while international pressure ‘is increased Saturday to push Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to act.
An AFP team that flew over the state of Rondonia (north-west) Friday found the presence of multiple fires.
The residents of Porto Velho met on Saturday were expressing fears over the cloud of smoke that dominates the main city of the area.
“I am very worried about the environment and our health,” Delmara ConceicAPound o Silva told AFP. “I have a daughter who has breathing problems and she suffers more with fires”.
The fate of the largest rainforest on the planet is at the heart of the G7 summit taking place this weekend in Biarritz, in the south-west of France.
The latest official data indicates that 78,383 fires have been recorded since January, a record since 2013.
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.
More than half of these fires are in the Amazon, where more than 20 million people live. Some 1,663 new fires broke out between Thursday and Friday, according to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
The boss of INPE was sacked in early August after publishing data on deforestation deemed untrue by Jair Bolsonaro: they showed that deforestation in July was almost four times higher than that recorded in the same month of 2018.
The new figures are made public the day after Mr. Bolsonaro announced the deployment of the army. By decree, from Saturday and for a period of one month, the governors of the states concerned 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 army. Some 43,000 soldiers permanently based in the Amazon are available to fight fires, said Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva.
Six firefighting planes 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.
US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have offered their help.
Colombian President Ivan Duque called on the international community to provide ways to preserve the Amazon.
“Any help with fires is welcome,” Brazil’s defense minister told reporters on Saturday.
The images of the “lung of the planet” on fire caused a global emotion.
With cries of “Save the Amazon”, demonstrations gathered several thousands of people in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro Friday, others took place in front of the embassies and consulates of Brazil in the world, with the call of numerous NGOs.
This environmental crisis is such that it threatens to torpedo the EU-Mercosur trade agreement (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) signed in late June after 20 years of negotiations.
“It is difficult to imagine a harmonious ratification process by the European countries as long as the Brazilian government will allow the destruction of the green lung of the Earth,” warned Saturday the President of the European Council Donald Tusk shortly before the opening of the G7.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday accused Jair Bolsonaro of “lying” about his environmental commitments and announced that in these circumstances, France was opposed to the EU-Mercosur treaty.
“Forest fires exist around the world and this can not be used as a pretext for possible international sanctions,” the Brazilian head of state said late Friday.
Earlier this week, Jair Bolsonaro had blamed environmental NGOs for “arson”.
“The NGOs are losing money, coming from Norway and Germany, they have no jobs, they are trying to overthrow me,” he said on Thursday, referring to the suspension by these two countries their grants to the Amazon Fund dedicated to the preservation of the huge rainforest.
Source: Seychelles News Agency