Brazil’s army on Sunday deployed aircraft to battle the raging fires in the Amazon as global concern and outrage over the potential consequences—and the destructive causes—of the disaster grow.
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The military operations involving C-130 aircraft to put out fires came after Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro triggered global protests over his government’s policies and failure to take swift action to combat the flames.
Official data released Saturday backs up the call for swift action. Agence France-Presse reported, “Some 1,130 new fires were ignited between Friday and Saturday, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).” So far this year, the country has witnessed 79,513 fires, more than half of which occurred in the Amazon, according to the agency. That marks an 82 percent increase from 2018.
The fires were discussed by global leaders meeting in Biarritz, France for the G7 summit. French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday, “We are all agreed on helping those countries which have been hit by the fires as fast as possible.”
“Our teams are making contact with all the Amazon countries so we can finalize some very concrete commitments involving technical resources and funding,” said Macron.
The French leader and Bolsonaro last week sparred on Twitter over the fires. “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest—the lungs which produces 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen—is on fire,” tweeted Macron. Bolsonaro then accused Macron of using the fires “for personal political gains” and said the French president had a “sensationalist tone.”
Pope Francis on Sunday added his voice to the chorus of concern.
“We are all worried about the vast fires that have developed in the Amazon,” he said, speaking to the public in St Peter’s Square. “That lung of forests,” the pontiff added, “is vital for our planet.”
Bolsonaro—who previously asserted there weren’t resources to battle the fires—has baselessly suggested the fires could have been started by NGOs upset with his policies. But environmental campaigners say his policies promoting deforestation and other manifestations of Amazon exploitation are the main culprits.
As NBC reported Sunday
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