Brazil's Amazon basin fires keep surging

Photo: AFP

The number of fires in Brazil's Amazon basin is still on the rise, even though the government has banned burning, officials said Saturday.

In the first 48 hours since the ban was issued, satellite data from the National Space Research Institute (INPE) showed 3,859 new outbreaks of fire, of which some 2,000 were concentrated in the Amazon region.

From January to the end of August, 51.9 percent of Brazil's recorded 88,816 fires were in the rainforest, according to the INPE, a number experts call a dramatic, direct consequence of farmers' widespread deforestation.

Brazil's Amazon region is in its dry season, but experts note that 2019 has been wetter than previous years - they also stress that there are no natural fires in the Amazon.

The no-burn decree may have been too little too late, and more of a political than practical gesture, some analysts say.

Deforestation has surged this year as agencies tasked with monitoring illegal activities were weakened by right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.

Often called the Trump of the Tropics, Bolsonaro has questioned climate change, and argues farmers sometimes need the land for their livelihood.

Since the weekend thousands of troops, firefighters, and aircraft have been deployed, and the defense ministry says the fires are under control.

Bolsonaro claimed in a live Facebook broadcast Thursday "this year's fires are below the average of recent years."

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