Amazon fires can be seen from space as wild blazes which are destroying swathes of the rainforest have turned night into day in Sao Paulo.
Monitoring data from the World Meteorological Organization today shows smoke drifting thousands of miles from the rainforest in the northwest of Brazil across the country to Rio de Janeiro on the Atlantic coast.
Eerie photos of Sao Paulo on Monday afternoon showed Brazil’s largest city plunged into darkness, with cars forced to turn on their headlights after thick black smoke travelled some 1,700 miles from its source.
Although more than 72,000 fires have raged since the year began, over 9,500 new infernos have ignited since last Thursday, according to Brazil’s space research centre INPE.
There has been an 83% surge in forest fires since the same period last year and the highest number since records began.
Smoke clouds have blanketed the northern most state of Roraima, while Amazonas has declared a state of emergency and Matto Grosso has recorded 13,000 since the year began, the most of any state.
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Huge clouds of smoke can be seen drifting from the northern Brazilian states of Amazonas, Para, Mato Grosso and Rondonia down through its borders with Bolivia, Chile and Peru as the fires which have raged since the beginning of the year continue
Overcast and dark sky at Paulista Avenue, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Monday afternoon. Cars were forced to turn their headlights on during the start of the evening rush hour at around 4.30pm, when it would usually be daylight
Brazil’s space research centre, INPE, has detected 72,843 fires so far this year (pictured: The Amazon forest fire)
A man works in a burning tract of Amazon jungle as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil. Wildfires are common in the dry season, but are also deliberately set by farmers illegally deforesting land for cattle ranching.
So far this year Brazil’s space research centre has detected 72,843 fires, an 83% surge on last year and the highest numbers since records began in 2013 (the Amazon jungle burning in September 2013)
Bolsonaro claimed on Wednesday the administration is working to control wildfires in the rainforest (pictured: A map showing fire locations)
A massive cloud of particulate matter from the fires has already been swept out into the Atlantic Ocean and can be seen by meteorologists on the western coast of Africa.
The news comes as President Jair Bolsonaro accused NGOs today of burning the forest to shame him for slashing their funding.
Bolsonaro said ‘everything indicates’ that NGOs are going to the Amazon to ‘set fire’ to the forest.
When asked if he had evidence to back up his claims, he said he had ‘no written plan,’ adding ‘that’s not how it’s done.’
He pointed out that his government had cut funding, which he claimed may be a motive. ‘Crime exists,’ he said during the Facebook Live broadcast. ‘These people are missing the money.’
Bolsonaro’s comments are likely to enrage critics, who have become increasingly concerned by his administration’s attitudes toward the Amazon, one of the world’s most important bulwarks against climate change. Brazil is home to more than half of the Amazon.
Bolsonaro, a longtime sceptic of environmental concerns, wants to develop the Amazon, and has told other countries worried about rising deforestation since he took office to mind their own business.
However, Bolsonaro claimed on Wednesday the administration is working to control wildfires in the rainforest.
Jair Bolsonaro, a longtime sceptic of environmental concerns, wants to develop the Amazon, and has told other countries worried about rising deforestation since he took office to mind their own business (pictured: The Amazon fire)
The unprecedented surge in wildfires has occurred since Bolsonaro (pictured) took office in January vowing to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining
This NASA satellite photo shows several fires burning in the states of Rondonia, Amazonas, Para and Mato Grosso earlier this month
Paulista Avenue in downtown Sao Paulo was eerily dark on Monday afternoon as smoke clouds from the Amazon that had drifted some 1,700 miles hung over the city
Pictures taken around 4.30pm on Monday show that cars were forced to turn on their headlights in order to deal with low-visibility as a thick cloud of black smoke hung over Brazil’s largest city
A tract of Amazon jungle is seen burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state on Tuesday. Bolsonaro has brushed off criticism, saying it is the time of the year of the ‘queimada’ or burn, when farmers use fire to clear land.
Brazil’s space research centre, INPE, has detected 72,843 fires so far this year. When asked about the spread of uncontrolled fires, Bolsonaro has brushed off criticism, saying it is the time of the year of the ‘queimada’ or burn, when farmers use fire to clear land.
‘I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame. But it is the season of the queimada,’ he told reporters.
However, INPE said the large number of wildfires could not be attributed to the dry season or natural phenomena alone.
‘There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average,’ said INPE researcher Alberto Setzer.
Wildfires are common in the dry season, but are also deliberately set by farmers illegally deforesting land for cattle ranching.
A charred trunk is seen on a tract of Amazon jungle that was recently burned by men working the land in Iranduba on Tuesday. Many of them may now be feeling empowered by Bolsonaro, a climate change sceptic, with a strongly pro-agrobusiness agenda.
The Amazon, which is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, is seen as vital to countering global warming
Deforestation in the rainforest surged 67% in the first seven months of the year, according to the INPE
Many of them may now be feeling empowered by the far-right President, who is a climate change sceptic with a strongly pro-agrobusiness agenda.
Deforestation in the rainforest surged 67% in the first seven months of the year, according to the INPE.
Earlier this month, Germany and Norway announced the suspension of environmental funding for sustainability projects in Brazil’s forests, both saying his far-right administration isn’t committed to fighting deforestation.
On the campaign trail, Bolsonaro vowed to help mining and agribusiness companies expand their activities in environmentally protected areas, including the Amazon.
Since he was sworn into office on January 1, he has shown on multiple occasions that he will stick to his campaign promises.
INPE said the large number of wildfires could not be attributed to the dry season or natural phenomena alone. Sao Paulo is pictured on Monday afternoon
He appointed a like-minded environment minister, Ricardo Salles, who was found guilty of modifying an environmental protection plan surrounding a river basin to favour mining groups when he was Secretary of Environment for Sao Paulo state between 2016 and 2018.
Over the past seven months, Bolsonaro and Salles have worked to weaken environmental legislation.
The president has passed a decree to cut the size of the National Council of the Environment from 100 to 21 members and has attempted to transfer the responsibility for delineating indigenous territories from the Justice Ministry to the Agriculture Ministry, which one lawmaker described as ‘letting the fox take over the chicken coop.’
Bolsonaro also said he was working on a proposal to regularise illegal mining in protected areas.