Over 10% of the territory of the Argentine province of Corrientes (northeast) has been consumed over the past few days by fires that were caused intentionally, according to some video footage that went viral on social media.
After two months of drought, the National Meteorological Service (SMN) had forecast isolated storms for Monday and Tuesday, which may have negative consequences since winds would help fires spread more rapidly that rains would put them down, it was reported.
In addition to help from fire brigades from other Argentine provinces (San Juan, Jujuy, Misiones, Mendoza, Córdoba, Entre Ríos, Salta, Chaco, Santiago del Estero, and the City and Province of Buenos Aires), help teams were also welcomed from Brazil and Bolivia.
Ejemplares de Yacaré con sus crías se desplazan escapando de los incendios que azotan en zona del Portal Cambyreta en Corrientes, son una de las tantas especies que hoy se ven obligados a dejar sus ambientes naturales. Por otro lado también tenemos ejemplares con quemadura graves pic.twitter.com/vV98URXzSA— LuisMartínez Ambientalista (@AMBLUISM) February 17, 2022
Nationwide fundraising events have been launched in the city of Buenos Aires and even through virtual platforms. Donations have surpassed all expectations, according to national media sources.
Apart from money, other contributions such as food, drinks and medical supplies have been received at various relief posts.
Social media influencer Santiago Maratea alone has collected over AR $ 100 million (around one million dollars at the official exchange rate).
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro -whose policies regarding deforestation in Amazonia have been criticized worldwide- was among the first to help Corrientes by sending firefighting teams to Corrientes, where over 785,000 hectares were burnt down. Argentine Ambassador to Brasilia Daniel Scioli explained brigades from the state of Rio Grande do Sul and the municipality of São Borja had crossed the border ”at the request of Santo Tomé (Corrientes) Mayor José Augusto Suaid Cortes.”
Corrientes Governor Gustavo Valdés said only nature will be able to put out the fire, as he declared the entire Esteros del Iberá region an ecological and environmental catastrophe zone.
Valdés has engaged in strong arguments with National Environment Minister Juan Cabandié over the sending of additional help to at least divert the fire until it rains.
Corrientes fue declarada como zona de catástrofe ecológica y ambiental pic.twitter.com/Nbgy8Gcgyu— Filo.news (@filonewsOK) February 19, 2022
The governor also admitted the damage to the flora and fauna is very important, while lamenting the loss of native animals in the area.
Relief work has included over 2,600 firefighters, plus 10 hydrant planes, five helicopters, tank trucks and 97 private crews, Valdés explained.
He also said there were still no assessment as to the economic losses, but admitted they would be substantial.
Valdés also contacted US Ambassador to Argentina Marc Stanley to seek help. “Since Corrientes needs more resources to overcome the Igneous Emergency that it is going through, I requested the collaboration of the United States through its ambassador to Argentina, Marc Stanley,” Valdés wrote on Twitter.
“We have to put out the fire, I am not going to argue. With Cabandié the conversation is over. Yesterday he touched the territory of Corrientes and we talked for a few seconds on the phone,” Valdés said in a radio interview.
Regarding President Alberto Fernández, Valdés said the national head of state had promised him to help the province once the fire is put down. We are going to assess the damage with the President and surely when we put out the fire we will see all the help. Valdés said Fernández had promised him to grant help lines for all producers, which ”hopefully it will be delivered on and we can work together.”