Disasters & Accidents

Fires in Brazil’s Amazon region climb to 13-year high for June

Sao Paulo, Jul 1 (efe-epa).- A total of 2,248 fires were reported in Brazil’s Amazon region in June, an increase of nearly 20 percent from the same period of 2019 and the largest number for that month since 2007, officials said Wednesday.

Satellite images detected a total of 3,077 blazes in the Brazilian portion of the Amazon between May and June, the first two months of the dry season in the world’s largest tropical rainforest, up 12.5 percent from the same two months of last year, according to data provided by the Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil-based National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

Environmental organizations previously had warned about an increase in forest fires during the Amazon’s dry season (which lasts until September) due to high rates of deforestation, a serious and growing problem facing that vast ecosystem.

A total of 9,165 square kilometers (3,540 square miles) of Amazon rainforest were cleared in 2019, rightist President Jair Bolsonaro’s first year in office, an 85 percent increase from the previous year and the highest level since 2016, according to official figures.

That trend is continuing this year, with the INPE indicating in a preliminary report issued on June 6 that deforestation rose 22 percent between January and May.

Army troops have been deployed since early June to prevent the illegal and indiscriminate felling of trees and other environmental crimes in Brazil’s Amazon region, whose inhabitants also are under threat from the coronavirus pandemic.

Organized crime gangs involved in illegal logging, mining and ranching are behind the deforestation and fires, according to different environmental groups’ reports, which say those criminal groups respond with violence when forest defenders and indigenous communities try to interfere with their business.

In 2019, a total of 89,178 fires – an increase of 30 percent from the previous year – devastated large areas of the Amazon rainforest.

Images of last year’s fires received global media coverage and provoked widespread condemnation from the international community and civil society, who blamed the disaster on Bolsonaro’s calls for the development of natural resources throughout the Amazon, including within the boundaries of indigenous reserves. EFE-EPA

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