Published On: Thu, Aug 22nd, 2019

Amazon fires containment: How big is raging fire right now? One million people at risk | World | News

Wildfires in the Amazon rainforest have shocked the world as more than 9,500 fires erupted in Brazil in less than a week. The Brazilian city of Sao Paulo was plunged into darkness when it experienced a dramatic daytime blackout caused by smoke from the unruly fires in the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon rainforest, spanning 2.1 million square miles is home to approximately three million animal and plant species and one million indigenous people.

Brazil’s space research center, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), detected 72,843 fires in the Amazon this year alone, marking an 83 percent surge compared to the same period in 2018.

The INPE added 9,507 fires had been spotted in the country in the last week.

Most of the fires were located in the Amazon basin, which is home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people.

This region includes territory belonging to nine nations, 60 percent which is located within Brazil.

Amazon fire containment: Brazil indigenous reserve

Amazon fire containment: One million indigenous people who live in the Amazon are at risk (Image: APU GOMES/AFP/GETTY/REUTERS)

An estimated measure calculated by reveals that approximately 640 million acres have been affected by the fire.

Based on Google’s alert system, the area surrounded by the fire covers more than half of Brazil.

However, the exact figure is unknown – and likely never fully comprehended, given the sheer size and scale of the devastation.

The ferocious blazes have caused many areas to issue official alerts after three weeks of intense fires pose a heightened threat to nearby communities.

Amazon fires containment: Amazon numbers

Amazon fires containment: The Amazon rainforest wildfires in numbers (Image: EXPRESS.CO.UK)

Amazon fires containment: Amazon fire map

Amazon fires containment: A map showing the number of fires in Brazil over the past 24 hours (Image: INFO AMAZONIA)

Acre, on the border with Peru, has been on environmental alert since Friday, and wildfires have also increased in Mato Grosso and Para.

The Amazonas capital Manaus has also been on environmental alert since Friday as a direct result of the fires.

Satellite images also showed Brazil’s most northern state, Roraima, covered in dark smoke.

The daytime blackout, which lasted around one hour, was believed to have come about after strong winds carried the intense forest fire smoke from the burning states of Amazonas and Rondonia, more than 1,700 miles (2,700km) to São Paulo, plunged half of the country into darkness.

Amazon fires containment: Indigenous people

Amazon fires containment: The Waiapi indigenous community in Brazil (Image: APU GOMES/AFP/GETTY)

However, meteorologists now believe the smoke came from major fires burning in Paraguay, which is much closer to the city.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus yesterday tweeted: “The Amazon rainforest—an irreplaceable part of what makes life on Earth possible—is burning at a record rate.

“Global CO2 emissions are at a record high. Last month was the hottest month on our planet in recorded history. We are in a climate emergency.”

Wildfires are common in the dry season, but are also deliberately set by farmers illegally deforesting land for cattle ranching.

Amazon fires containment: Fire map

Amazon fires containment: Brazil fire map showing how prolific wildfires are across the country (Image: INFO AMAZONIA)

Amazon fires containment

Amazon fires containment (Image: NASA)

The unprecedented surge in wildfires has occurred since right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January, raising questions over his environmental policy.

Bolsonaro has vowed to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining, ignoring international concern over increased deforestation.

Wildfires are common in Brazil – especially during the dry season, but the INPE has said the number of fires do not correlate to the normal levels of wildfires from previous dry seasons.

The rate of blazing infernos has skyrocketed due to the unprecedented warmth and dryness across the country earlier this year, but mainly because of the increased deforestation by humans.

Amazon fires containment: Tribe

Amazon fires containment: Arara indigenous people at a meeting at the Laranjal tribal camp (Image: GETTY)

Amazon fires containment: Amazon fires

Amazon fires containment: There have been more than 70,000 wildfires in Brazil this year (Image: REUTERS)

It is believed the latest fires were started deliberated in an effort to illegally deforest land for cattle ranching.

INPE researcher Alberto Setzer told Reuters: “There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average,.

“People frequently blame the dry season for the wildfires in the Amazon, but that is not quite accurate.

“The dry season creates the favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.”

Amazon fires containment: Indigenous children

Amazon fires containment: One million indigenous people face potentially losing their homes to fire (Image: GETTY)

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro yesterday accused non government organisations of burning down the Amazon to hurt his government, as an internationally viral campaign launched across the social media.

Mr Bolsonaro’s comments, shared without any supporting evidence, enraged critics and impacted the country’s global position.

Tensions are rising between Brazil and its European donors regarding the preservation of the world’s largest tropical rainforest — with the most recent spat threatening to completely undermine a long-sought free-trade deal between Europe and South America.

The deal between the European Union and the South American trading bloc Mercosur requires Brazil to abide by the Paris climate accord, which aims to end illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 2030.

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