National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) shared a satellite view of the devastating wildfire that has been burning in the Amazon forests for over three weeks. Amazon Rainforest of Amazonas state in Brazil is battling a massive wildfire. According to reports, wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest have hit a record number this year. Over 72,843 fires have been detected so far by Brazil's space research center INPE. Concerns have been growing over right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro's environmental policy. According to the agency, the surge marks an 83% increase over the same period of 2018.
NASA took to Twitter to share the satellite photo which looks like a thick cloud of smoke hovering over parts of the South American continent. The fire has reportedly spread across to different Brazillian states and has already led to large scale destruction of the precious flora and fauna found in the dense rainforests. See the photo tweeted by NASA here:
Smoke from wildfires in the #AmazonRainforest spreads across several Brazilian states in this natural-color image taken by a @NASAEarth instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite. Although it is fire season in Brazil, the number of fires may be record-setting: https://t.co/NVQrffzntr pic.twitter.com/4JTcBz9C8f— NASA (@NASA) August 21, 2019
The unprecedented surge in the forest fires has occurred since Bolsonaro took office in January. Bolsonaro vowed to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining, ignoring international concern over increased deforestation. When asked about the spread of uncontrolled fires, Bolsonaro brushed off the criticism, saying it was the time of the year of the "queimada" or burn, when farmers use fire to clear land. Space agency INPE, however, said a large number of wildfires could not be attributed to the dry season or natural phenomena alone.
Images of fires purportedly devouring sections of the world's largest rainforest have gone viral on Twitter. #PrayforAmazonas is the top trending hashtag in the world on Wednesday, with more than 249,000 tweets. Official figures show nearly 73,000 forest fires were recorded in Brazil in the first eight months of the year the highest number for any year since 2013. Most were in the Amazon. That compares with 39,759 in all of 2018, according to the embattled National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which has been in Bolsonaro's cross-hairs since it released data showing a surge in deforestation in recent months. The head of INPE, the agency tasked with monitoring forest clearing, was sacked over the figures.
While it was not possible Wednesday to measure the size of the area affected by fires, thick smoke in recent days has blanketed several cities, including Sao Paulo, and caused a commercial flight to be diverted. Forest fires tend to intensify during the dry season, which usually ends in late October or early November, as land is cleared to make way for crops or grazing. But the WWF has blamed this year's sharp increase in accelerating deforestation in the Amazon, which is seen as crucial to keeping climate change in check. "Historically, in this region, the use of fire is directly linked to deforestation as it is one of the techniques for tree clearing," WWF said in a statement.
Bolsonaro recently fired the director of INPE after he criticized agency statistics showing an increase in deforestation in Brazil, saying they were inaccurate. "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," he told reporters. Bolsonaro hit back on Wednesday, saying "criminal action by those NGOs, to call attention against me, against the Brazilian government" following funding cuts may be the reason for the forest fires. "This is the war that we are facing," Bolsonaro told reporters. "The fires were lit in strategic places. All the indications suggest they went there to film and start fires. That's what I feel."