Amazon fires: Rainforest blaze started DELIBERATELY – Brazil president admits shock cause

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The unprecedented surge in wildfires has occurred since Mr Bolsonaro took office in January vowing to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining, ignoring international concern over increased deforestation. Wildfires are common in the dry season, but are also deliberately set by farmers illegally deforesting land to clear it for cattle ranching.

Asked about the spread of uncontrolled fires, Mr Bolsonaro brushed off criticism, saying it was the time of the year of the “queimada” or burn, when farmers use fire to clear land.

He added: “I used to be called Captain Chainsaw.

“Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame. But it is the season of the queimada.”

Wildfires in the Amazon rainforest have hit a record number this year, with 72,843 fires detected so far by Brazil’s space research centre INPE.

The intensity of the fires has prompted concern over right-winger Mr Bolsonaro’s environmental policies and the impact they are having on the delicate ecosystem.

The surge marks an 83 percent increase over the same period of 2018, the agency said on Tuesday, and is the highest since records began in 2013.

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And Acre, another state on the border with Peru, has been on environmental alert since Friday due to the fires.

The flames have been so intense smoke from them caused a blackout in Sao Paulo on Monday – even though it is located 1,700 miles to the south east.

Wildfires have increased in Mato Grosso and Para, two states where Brazil’s agricultural frontier has pushed into the Amazon basin and spurred deforestation.

Space agency INPE said the large number of wildfires could not be entirely attributed to the dry season or natural phenomena

INPE researcher Alberto Setzer said: “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 was not quite accurate, he said.

He explained: “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.”

Mr Bolsonaro recently fired the director of INPE after he criticised agency statistics showing an increase in deforestation in Brazil, saying they were inaccurate.

He told reporters: “I am waiting for the next set of numbers, that will not be made up numbers. If they are alarming, I will take notice of them in front of you.”

The Amazon rainforest covers much of northwestern Brazil and extending into Colombia, Peru and other countries in South America.

The most diverse tropical rainforest in the world, the rainforest is home to an estimated 390 billion trees, 2.5million insect species as well as 2,000 species of mammals and birds.

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