Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

RIO DE JANEIRO — Backed by military aircraft, Brazilian troops on Saturday prepared to deploy in the Amazon to fight fires that have swept the region and prompted anti-government protests as well as an international outcry.

Some 44,000 troops will be available for “unprecedented” operations to put out the fires, and forces are heading to six Brazilian states that asked for federal help to contain the blazes, Defence Minister Fernando Azevedo said. The states are Roraima, Rondonia, Tocantins, Para, Acre and Mato Grosso.

The military’s first mission will be the deployment of 700 troops to the area around Porto Velho, capital of Rondonia, Azevedo said. He added that the military will use two C-130 Hercules aircraft capable of dumping up to 12,000 litres (3,170 gallons) of water on fires.

An Associated Press journalist flying over the Porto Velho region Saturday morning reported hazy conditions and low visibility. On Friday, the reporter saw many already deforested areas that were burned, apparently by people clearing farmland, as well as a large column of smoke billowing from one fire.

The Brazilian military operations came after widespread criticism of President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis. On Friday, the president authorized the armed forces to get involved in putting out the fires, saying he is committed to protecting the Amazon region.

“It shows the concern of Bolsonaro’s government about this issue,” Azevedo said. “It was a very fast response.”

The defence minister noted U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer in a tweet to help Brazil fight the fires, and said there had been no further contact on the matter.

Bolsonaro has previously described rainforest protections as an obstacle to Brazil’s economic development, sparring with critics who say the Amazon absorbs vast amounts of greenhouse gasses and is crucial for efforts to contain climate change.

The Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries who believe Bolsonaro has neglected commitments to protect biodiversity. Protesters gathered outside Brazilian diplomatic missions in European and Latin American cities Friday, and demonstrators also marched in Brazil.

The dispute spilled into the economic arena when French leader Emmanuel Macron threatened to block a European Union trade deal with Brazil and several other South American countries. He wants Group of Seven leaders meeting at a summit in France this weekend to discuss the Amazon crisis.

“First we need to help Brazil and other countries put out these fires,” Macron said Saturday.

The goal is to “preserve this forest that we all need because it is a treasure of our biodiversity and our climate thanks to the oxygen that it emits and thanks to the carbon it absorbs,” he said.

Bolivia and Paraguay have also struggled to contain fires that swept through woods and fields, in many cases set to clear land for farming. A U.S.-based aircraft, the B747-400 SuperTanker, is flying over devastated areas in Bolivia to help put out the fires and protect forests.

Fires are common in Brazil in the annual dry season, but they are much more widespread this year. Brazilian state experts reported nearly 77,000 wildfires across the country so far this year, up 85% over the same period in 2018.

Just Posted

Trudeau seeks to right his campaign in Toronto as Scheer heads to Maritimes

OTTAWA — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is in Toronto today, hoping to… Continue reading

Canadian retail sales up 0.4 per cent in July, first increase in three months

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 0.4 per cent in… Continue reading

Hudson’s Bay Co. closing its 15 Hudson’s Bay stores in the Netherlands

TORONTO — Hudson’s Bay Co. is closings its 15 Hudson’s Bay stores… Continue reading

Alberta man sentenced to 23.5 years for sexually abusing his three daughters

EDMONTON — A central Alberta man who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting… Continue reading

Red Deerians air their opinions on the Justin Trudeau in brownface scandal

Does the two-decade-ago time frame make it more forgivable?

Your community calendar

Wednesday Central Alberta Historical Society annual general meeting is 6 p.m. at… Continue reading

Canada’s women’s basketball team to begin Olympic qualifying process

EDMONTON — Two-time Olympian Kim Gaucher and WNBA rookie Bridget Carleton headline… Continue reading

Canada climbs FIFA world soccer rankings, moves past CONCACAF rival Panama

The numbers are suddenly looking better for Canada. The Canadian men rose… Continue reading

Greta Hodgkinson to retire as principal dancer at National Ballet of Canada

TORONTO — It’s the end of an era at the National Ballet… Continue reading

‘We can move on with our lives:’ Alberta parents acquitted in death of toddler

LETHBRIDGE — An Alberta mother and father who treated their ill son… Continue reading

Trudeau asks Canada to look to his current, not past, actions on race

Justin Trudeau’s privileged upbringing created a “massive blind spot” when it came… Continue reading

Appeal court rules 3-2 in favour of law that slashed Toronto city council

TORONTO — Ontario’s top court has upheld a provincial law that slashed… Continue reading

Most Read