AFP/Rio de Janeiro
The fires that burned through the Amazon rainforest last month sparked international outcry and offers of help, but as world leaders meet in New York, the planet’s largest rainforest remains engulfed in flames.
The latest satellite data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows 131,600 fires burning since January within the country, where 60% of the Amazon lies.
The fires, which are mostly caused by humans with the goal of clearing land for farming and cattle ranching, are having a grievous effect on the forest: the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has nearly doubled since January this year, with the equivalent of 110 football fields of land being cleared every hour.
Fires are at a seven-year high, according to INPE data, and despite a slight drop at the start of the month, the number of active fires recorded in Brazil from the start of the year to September 19 was up 56% over the same period in 2018.
Nearly half of the blazes are in the Amazon.
President Bolsonaro last month sent soldiers to help put out fires in the Amazon region.
Under that deployment, which was renewed on Friday for another month, nearly 7,000 soldiers and 16 aircraft are fighting both the flames and “deforestation and illegal mining,” Brazil’s defence ministry said.
Marcio Astrini, a Greenpeace official in Brazil, said the deployment is making little difference.
“We did a lot of fly-overs. We did not see anything happening on the ground, apart from the deforestation that is progressing. It’s tragic,” he told AFP.
Experts sent by the United States, logistical equipment from Japan, and four aircraft from Chile are all fighting the blazes, the defence ministry said.
Tomorrow, French President Emmanuel Macron will launch a “call for mobilisation” on the Amazon together with his counterparts Sebastian Pinera of Chile and Ivan Duque of Colombia during a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
On Tuesday, Bolsonaro will make the opening speech at the UN General Assembly, in which he is expected to focus on the Amazon.
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