Sao Paulo plunged into darkness by epic Amazon wildfire smoke (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Cheryl Sanders
August 21, 2019

A daytime blackout on Monday in Sao Paulo caused by smoke brought in by strong winds from forest fires in Amazonas and the state of Rondonia, more than 2,700km away, prompted tens of thousands of people to take to social media and voice their concerns for the welfare of the Amazon rainforest.

Concerned social media users have blamed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for the fires in part due to an increase in deforestation since he took office on January 1.

The fires are burning at the highest rate since the country's space research center, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), began tracking them in 2013, the center said Tuesday.

Most of the blazes were located in the Amazon basin - home to the world's largest tropical forest seen as vital to countering global warming.

Environmentalists claim that Mr Bolsonaro is allowing loggers and farmers to cut down more and more of the forest in order to clear the land. It said it had detected 9,500 fires since Thursday, the majority of which are in the Amazon region.

Inpe, however, noted that the number of fires was not in line with those normally reported during the dry season.

Bolsonara, a former army captain took office in January, after a campaign that promised to explore the Amazon's economic potential.

"The dry season creates the favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident", Setzer told the news agency.

Last week, NASA released a pair of satellite images of the fires, which show giant plumes of smoke covering the Brazilian state of Amazonas, which has issued a state of emergency due to the rising number of fires. "Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame", Reuters quoted.

The pact requires Brazil to abide by the Paris climate accord, which Bolsonaro has threatened to pull out of, and also aims to end illegal deforestation, including in the Brazilian Amazon. Roughly half the size of the USA, it is the largest rainforest on the planet. But Mr Bolsonaro and his ministers have criticised the penalties and overseen a fall in confiscations of timber and convictions for environmental crimes.

INPE is already in Bolsonaro's crosshairs over data showing a surge in deforestation in recent months. It followed an Inpe report that showed an 88% increase in June compared to the same month a year previously.

Bolsonaro dismissed the figures as lies and sacked the head of the agency tasked with tracking forest clearing. However, the agency claim that their data is 95 per cent accurate and their reliability has been backed up by agencies such as the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

Other reports by iNewsToday