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‘Amazon now like a cemetery’


PORTO Velho, Brazil: “This is almost a cemetery. Because all you can see is death.” This is how nongovernment group, Greenpeace, described the burning portion of the sprawling Amazon rainforest as they accompanied personalities in flying above this province situated 460 kilometers north of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s capital.

“This is almost a cemetery. Because all you can see is death,” Rosanna Villar of Greenpeace said.

Rosanna Villar, an official of Greenpeace warned that it’s only a matter of days before the fire reach the border with Peru and Bolivia, which are both over 300 kilometers away from the fire flashpoint that started over two weeks ago.

UNCONTROLLABLE A laborer (right) with a friend looks at a fire that spread to the farm he works on next to a highway in Nova Sta. Helena municipality in northern Mato Grosso State, south in the Amazon basin in Brazil. Greenpeace has described the burning portion of the vast rainforests as cemetery as the raging fire literally killed everything in the forests. AFP PHOTO

The smoke is so thick, at times the Cessna airplane had to climb to stay out of it. At times your eyes burn and you close the air vents to keep the cabin habitable. Sometimes it is so bad, it is hard to see how bad it actually is on the ground below.

Flying above the Amazon’s worst afflicted state, Rondonia, is exhausting mostly because of the endless scale of the devastation.

At first, smoke disguised the constant stream of torched fields, and copses; of winding roads that weaved into nothing but ash. Below, the orange specks of a tiny fire might still rage, but much of the land appeared a mausoleum of the forest that once graced it.

“This is not just a forest that is burning,” Villar added.

Blackened tree trunks lay smoldering on the charred ground as thick smoke chokes the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, a scene of devastation that is being repeated across the “lungs of the planet.”

In the northwestern state of Rondonia―one of the hardest hit areas by the worst fires in years―people are living under a blanket of smoke that has enveloped the remote region.

“I’ve lived here for 20 years and I’ve seen a lot of fires, but this smoke in recent days, I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Welis da Claiana, 25, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in the capital Porto Velho.

“The smoke has affected 100 percent of our daily lives. We wake up tired from breathing the smoke.”

Da Claiana says the fires in recent days had even threatened the car hire company where she works and forced the cancellation of flights at the local airport.

“Visibility was horrible, no one could do anything,” she said, blaming “big farmers” for the blazes.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday pledged £10 million ($12.3 million) to help restore the Amazon rainforest, which has been ravaged by fires, sparking a wave of global concern.

The money would be made available immediately to help restore the habitat, including areas that had been hit by the fires, the British government said in a statement released at the G7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz.

The pledge came after French President Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the summit, said Sunday (Monday in Manila) that world leaders had agreed to help the countries affected by the wildfires as soon as possible.

“In a week where we have all watched, horrified, as the Amazon rainforest burns before our eyes, we cannot escape the reality of the damage we are inflicting on the natural world,” Johnson said in a statement.

Although about 60 percent of the Amazon is in Brazil, the vast forest also takes in parts Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.


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Today’s Front Page January 27, 2020

Today’s Front Page January 27, 2020