Hundreds of new fires are raging in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, official data showed, as thousands of troops were made available to help fight the worst blazes in years following a global outcry. Multiple fires billowing huge plumes of smoke into the air were seen across a vast area of the northwestern state of Rondonia.
Official figures show 78,383 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil this year, the highest number of any year since 2013. Experts say the clearing of land during the months long dry season to make way for crops or grazing, has aggravated the problem.
More than half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin, where more than 20 million people live. Some 1,663 new fires were ignited between Thursday and Friday, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
The new data came a day after Bolsonaro authorized deployment of the military to fight the fires and crack down on criminal activity.
Seven states, including Rondonia, have requested the army's help in the Amazon, where more than 44,000 troops are based and available to combat fires, officials said. Firefighters and planes are also being deployed.
Six aircraft, including two Hercules C-130s equipped to carry 12,000 liters (3,170 gallons) of water each, have been sent to Rondonia to fight the fires. They are expected to be joined by 30 firefighters.
US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, both attending the G7 summit, have offered their countries' assistance in fighting the fires.
Any help is welcome in respect to the fires, Brazil's Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva told reporters on Saturday.
The blazes have stirred outrage globally, with thousands of people protesting in Brazil and Europe on Friday. Thousands demonstrated in Brazil on Sunday.
Earlier this week, Bolsonaro, whose anti-environment rhetoric since coming to power in January has been blamed for harming the Amazon and indigenous tribes, accused non-governmental organizations of deliberately starting the fires after their funding was cut.
Environmental specialists say the fires are coming amid increasing deforestation in the Amazon region, which in July took place at a rate four times that of the same month in 2018, according to data from INPE.
Bolsonaro has previously attacked the institute, describing its data as lies and engineering the sacking of its head.
Brazil's powerful agriculture sector - which strongly supports Bolsonaro - has expressed concerns over the president's rhetoric, fearing boycotts of their products in key markets.
In an editorial Saturday, the respected Folha de S.Paulo newspaper warned that Bolsonaro's bravado had worsened the crisis caused by accelerating deforestation.
”The damage to (Brazil's) image is done, and it could have important trade repercussions, it said.
Nationalistic bravado will not win the game this time.”
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