NASA releases disturbing photos of Amazon's fire captured from space


Fires and plumes of smoke from the Amazon rainforest were seen from space in the last series of satellite images captured by the US space agency NASA.

The disturbing photos show smoke and fire in various Brazilian states as the crisis reaches record levels.

More than 75,000 fires broke out at the start of the year – an increase of 83% compared to last year and the highest since records began in 2013.

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The last fires have been on fire for three weeks, causing anti-government protests and international fury.

NASA images show the increase in smoke and fire activity with the outbreak of flames in Rondonia, Mato Grosso and Amazonas.

More than half of the fires are located in the massive basin of the Amazonia, where more than 20 million people live.

Approximately 1663 new fires were lit between Thursday and Friday, according to the National Institute for Space Research of Brazil.

Environmental organizations and researchers say the fires were probably established by humans who wanted to clear and use the land for commercial purposes.

Amazon Watch, a non-profit organization that works to protect the rainforest, said that farmers set fire to the forest to create pastures, encouraged by Brazil's conservative pro-business government.

"The unprecedented fires that devastate the Amazon are an international tragedy and a dangerous contribution to climate chaos," said Christian Poirier, director of the organization's program.

He said the flames were "directly linked" to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate skeptic who was criticized in the past for claiming that environmental protections hamper the South American country's economic growth.

"This devastation is directly related to President Bolsonaro's anti-environmental rhetoric, which mistakenly frames forest protection and human rights as obstacles to Brazil's economic growth," said Poirier.

He also said that Bolsonaro's message allowed farmers and breeders to "commit arson with unbridled impunity".

"The vast majority of these fires are illuminated by man," he said.

He said that farmers and ranches have long used fire to clear the land, which was the most likely cause of the unusually high number of fires burning in the rainforest.

Supported by military aircraft, Brazilian troops were deploying in the Amazon on Saturday.

President Bolsonaro also tried to mitigate the global concern, saying that the previously cleared areas had been burned and that the intact rainforest had been spared.

Even so, the fires could have been urgently discussed at a summit of the group of seven leaders in France this weekend.

Some 44,000 troops will be available for "unprecedented" operations to extinguish fires and forces are heading to six Brazilian states that have asked for federal aid, Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo said.

The states are Roraima, Rondonia, Tocantins, Para, Acre and Mato Grosso.

The first mission of the army will be conducted by 700 soldiers around Porto Velho, capital of Rondonia, Azevedo said.

The military will use two C-130 Hercules aircraft capable of discharging up to 12,000 liters of water on fires, he said.

An Associated Press journalist flying over the Porto Velho region on Saturday morning reported misty conditions and poor visibility.

On Friday, the journalist saw many already deforested areas that had been burned, apparently by people clearing farmland, as well as a large column of smoke floating by fire.

The municipality of Nova Santa Helena, in the state of Mato Grosso in Brazil, was also severely hit. Trucks were seen driving along a highway on Friday while fires broke out and embers burned in adjacent fields.

Brazilian military operations came after extensive criticism of Bolsonaro's handling of the crisis.

Despite international concerns, Bolsonaro told reporters Saturday that the situation was returning to normal.

He said he was "talking to everyone" about the problem, including Trump, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and several Latin American leaders.

Bolsonaro, who previously described rainforest protection as an obstacle to Brazil's economic development, spared by critics who warn the Amazon absorbs large amounts of greenhouse gases and is crucial for efforts to contain climate change.

The fires of the Amazon have become a global problem, increasing tensions between Brazil and European countries that believe that Bolsonaro has neglected its commitments to protect biodiversity.

The Amazonia is often referred to as the planet's lungs, producing 20% ​​of the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere.

Being the largest rainforest on the planet, it is considered a vital tool for slowing global warming.

According to the National Institute for Space Research, more than one and a half million Amazon rainforests are destroyed every minute.

With AP



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