Amazon blazes burn forest, farmland and threaten homes

Amazon blazes burn forest, farmland and threaten homes

Rosalino de Oliveira throws water trying protect their house as the fire approaches in area of Amaz
Rosalino de Oliveira throws water while trying to protect their house as the fire approaches in area of Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, Aug 16, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino)

PORTO VELHO, Brazil: Residents and firefighters in north-western Brazil are battling fires that are raging in the Amazon, destroying farmland and threatening their homes.

The blazes, which occur every year in the dry season, sent clouds of smoke billowing into the sky that could be seen and smelt from the capital of Rondonia state 38km away.

Experts say the fires that threaten the world's largest rainforest are rarely a natural phenomenon and are mostly set deliberately by speculators to clear land for pasture.

"Every year I suffer from this. Nobody knows who does this. They come and burn everything and run away," said bricklayer Rosalino de Oliveira as he watched a firefighter hose flames that came dangerously close to his clapboard home.

Siblings Rosalino de Oliveira and Miraceli de Oliveira try to protect themselves from the smoke as
Siblings Rosalino de Oliveira and Miraceli de Oliveira try to protect themselves from the smoke as the fire approaches their house in area of Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, Aug 16, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino)

"We are poor. I can barely feed my family on my salary. The fire comes to destroy everything in a matter of seconds," he said, shielding his face from the suffocating smoke.

His sister Miraceli, in tears, said she feared losing the few possessions they had.

Last week, Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro denied there were any fires in the Amazon, calling it a "lie" and blaming the media for spreading it.

Smoke billows from a fire in an area of the Amazon jungle as it is cleared by loggers and farmers n
Smoke billows from a fire in an area of the Amazon jungle as it is cleared by loggers and farmers near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, Aug 14, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino)
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According to government data, the first 15 days of August have seen about a 17 per cent decrease in the number of fires at this time last year, when a sharp increase in blazes across the Amazon attracted international condemnation amid alarm over the deforestation of a region crucial to the fight against global warming.

Deforestation rose 34.5 per cent in the 12 months through July, compared to a year earlier.

Bolsonaro has dispatched the military to fight fires and deforestation since May, but environmental experts question whether these deployments are working.

Source: Reuters/dv

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