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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019
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Record number of Amazon wildfires lit on purpose, claims president of Brazil

Nearly 73,000 forest fires have been reported in the country so far this year.

THE RECORD NUMBER of wildfires blazing in the Amazon rainforest were lit on purpose by green groups, the president of Brazil has claimed. 

Nearly 73,000 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil so far this year, according to official figures. This is the highest number since 2013.

#PrayforAmazonas was the top trending hashtag in the world on Twitter on Wednesday, with over 249,000 tweets.

There were nearly 40,000 forest fires in all of 2018, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). 

Most of them took place in the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest. 

The World Wildlife Fund has blamed the latest fires on the increase in deforestation in Brazil.

But president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro responded to criticism today over the fires by saying he believed they had been lit on purpose. 

Bolsonaro said that “criminal action by those NGOs, to call attention against me, against the Brazilian government” may be the reason for the forest fires.

“This is the war that we are facing.”

“The fires were lit in strategic places. All the indications suggest they went there to film and start fires. That’s what I feel.”

Meanwhile, the Environment Minister of Brazil Ricardo Salles defended the government’s efforts to prevent illegal deforestation.

“All the rules on illegal deforestation have been upheld, all strategies have continued to be enforced,” Salles said today.

“Unfortunately both the states and the federal government suffer because of the economic crisis, budget cuts, which hinders … enforcement operations.”

The head of the INPE was fired earlier this month after releasing figures showing a rise in Amazon deforestation in recent months. 

Thick smoke in the past few days has reportedly covered several cities including Sao Paulo. It has also caused one commercial flight to be diverted. 

Forest fires tend to intensify during the dry season which normally ends by early November as land is cleared for crops or grazing.

The president has come under scrutiny over his environmental policy since the fires began.

Germany and Norway have halted Amazon protection subsidies and accused Brazil of turning its back on the fight against deforestation. 

 with reporting from © AFP 2019

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