Fires started by peasant farmers have spread to over 100,000 hectares of forest in Paraguay. The farmers follow the age old practice of clearing woods and renewing grounds for the new agricultural season. While this is an annual event in Paraguay, officials say dry weather conditions this year have encouraged fires to spread over approximately 100,000 hectares (247,100 acres). The fires have devastated forest land, crops, and foraging areas.
This has resulted in Paraguay declaring a state of emergency in the three north-eastern provinces of San Pedro, Concepcion and Amambay on Tuesday. The fires have also demolished rural homes in this poor South American nation. Smoke from the fires has also affected airline traffic, with several flights being diverted from the biggest airport. The Government is being heavily criticised and its response to the crisis is being described as insufficient.
Paraguay: 10 Concepcion, 18 San Pedro, 3 Amambay
Noting that the emergency had given the regional governments special resources for fighting the fires and assisting the victims, Trade and Industry Minister Jose Maria Ibanez said:
At the moment, we’re trying to resolve the problem, tackle the crisis and deal with the circumstances.
The Department of Agriculture added that four hundred soldiers had also been dispatched to worst-affected areas where troops and fire-fighters are already working to control the fires. Evacuees were being provided aid for food and shelter.
The government’s farming chief, Alfredo Molinas claimed that:
With these measures, I think the situation can be brought under control, though not 100 percent until we get some rain.