Brazil President sends army to tackle Amazon fires after global outcry

Updated: Aug 25, 2019, 07:37 IST | Agencies |

Brazilian forces deployed starting Saturday to assist in putting out fires for a month, says presidential decree

Activists during a protest
Activists during a protest

Porto Velho: President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday authorised the deployment of Brazil's armed forces to help combat fires raging in the Amazon rainforest, as a growing global outcry over the blazes sparks protests and threatens a huge trade deal.

Plumes of thick smoke rose into the sky above dense forest in the northwestern state of Rondonia, where bright orange flames from various fires were visible for kilometers. "It's not normal and it's like this because of the smoke from the fires," said a hotel employee in the state capital Porto Velho, which was covered by a layer of smoke as fires burned near the city.

The fires in the world's largest rainforest have sparked street protests around the planet and ignited a war of words between Bolsonaro and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who has described the wildfires as an "international crisis" and vowed to block a trade agreement between the European Union and South American countries.

Aerial picture showing smoke from a two-kilometre stretch of fire billowing from the Amazon rainforest about 65 km from Porto Velho. Pics/AFP
Aerial picture showing smoke from a two-kilometre stretch of fire billowing from the Amazon rainforest about 65 km from Porto Velho. Pics/AFP

The latest official figures show 76,720 forest fires were recorded in Brazil so far this year—the highest number for any year since 2013—which experts blame on accelerating deforestation as land is cleared during the months-long dry season to make way for crops or grazing. More than half are in the Amazon.

Around 700 new fires were ignited between Wednesday and Thursday, according to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), fuelling air contamination in cities including Sao Paulo, where thick smog turned day into night on Monday.

After a late-night crisis meeting with members of his cabinet, Bolsonaro on Friday issued a decree permitting the deployment of armed forces to help extinguish fires and crack down on criminal activities in the region.

Bolsonaro's decision came as demonstrations are held around the world over the fires in the Amazon forest, a region considered the "lungs of the planet" and seen as crucial to keeping climate change in check. Several thousand protesters marched in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

700
No. of new fires ignited between Wed-Thurs

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