translated from Spanish: Pantanal fires reach record level in Brazil

Brasilia, Brazil.- Official sources reported on Thursday that the Pantanal, the largest wetland in the world and that Brazil shares with Paraguay and Bolivia, recorded in what goes from this month 5,603 fires, a record for September when there are still two weeks to go until the end of the month. According to data from the state-owned National Institute of Space Research (INPE), the number of heat bulbs detected in the first 16 days of September 2020 already exceeds 5,498 recorded in September 30, 2007, which until now were record for the month.
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According to INPE, which monitors heat bulbs daily throughout Brazil from satellite images, fires so far this month almost double the 2,887 recorded on September 30 last year. At the current rate, the September fires will surpass the largest for any month in the history of the Pantanal, which were August 2005 (5,993) and August 2020 (5,935). According to the agency, with three and a half months to go until the end of the year, the Pantanal accumulated 15,756 fires between 1 January and 16 September, a record that already exceeds the heat bulbs recorded throughout 2005, the worst year in the history of the wetland and when 12,536 fires were measured. The flames have destroyed much of the wetland and threaten what is considered the world’s most proportionally rich ecosystem in biodiversity of flora and fauna, which is about 250,000 square kilometers long, of which 150,000 square kilometers (about 60%) Brazilian territory. Recognized as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, some 600 kinds of birds, 124 species of mammals, 80 types of reptiles, 60 kinds of amphibians and 260 types of freshwater fish coexist in the Pantanal.

An anteater flees the fire on Thursday in the town of Porto Jofre, located in the municipality of Poconé, Mato Grosso state. / Photograph: EFE.

This year’s fires had destroyed until last week 2.35 million hectares (23,500 square kilometers) of plant cover in the Pantanal, almost 16% of the wetland in Brazil, but some environmental organizations estimate that the destruction already exceeds 20% of the ecosystem, according to INPE. The flames have already destroyed 85% of the nearly 109,000 hectares of the Encontro das Aguas environmental park, located near the border with Paraguay and one of the most touristic places in this biome for concentrating the largest number of jaguars in the world, now threatened by fire.

A firefighter observes a «sucuri» cobra fleeing the fire while fighting a fire, this Thursday, in the town of Porto Jofre. / Photograph: EFE.

THE AMAZONA year after images of the burning Brazilian Amazon shocked the world and generated global protests, the 2020 fires have mainly affected the Pantanal due to the long drought – the largest in 47 years – the strong temperatures of this era, climate change and the strength of the winds. ARSONSPese that fires are natural in the Pantanal at this time, the environmental organization Instituto SOS Pantanal estimates that more than 90% of those of this year were caused by ranchers and settlers interested in expanding their land for cultivation and livestock. Federal Police, in an operation this week, identified five large ranchers accused of having started fires. For SOS Pantanal CEO Felipe Augusto Dias, the only hope left for the wetland is for it to start raining and in high volume. «There is no other perspective. To put out the fire, mainly the one you don’t see by expanding below the stubble, ideally it rains a lot,» he said.

Firefighters and volunteers try to put out the fire on Thursday in the town of Porto Jofre. / Photograph: EFE.

The states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, which are distributed in the Pantanal in Brazil, were declared this week in a situation of calamity and emergency,spectivatively, a condition that allows the release of immediate resources and the support of national agencies, such as the Army, to deal with catastrophes.
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Original source in Spanish

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