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Brazilian Warplanes Are Trying to Soak the Burning Amazon

President Jair Bolsonaro authorized military intervention, as other nations promised to send resources to the rescue

by Emma Ockerman
Aug 26 2019, 4:00pm

Brazilian warplanes dumped thousands of gallons of water on the Amazon over the weekend and international resources began mobilizing in a concerted effort to fight the record number of devastating fires tearing through the rainforest region and more-populated areas in Brazil.

President Jair Bolsonaro authorized military intervention in the Amazon on Friday and sent military operations from seven states, with the first mission deploying two C-130 Hercules aircraft over Porto Velho, the capital of Rondonia and the site of many recent protests against the government’s slow reaction to the fires, according to the Associated Press.

Bolsonaro has been accused of reacting slowly to the country’s record 75,000-plus fires this year — many of them across the Amazon region — due to his anti-environmental views. A BBC analysis found that the rise in fires follows a sharp decline in the government’s fines for environmental violations, and reports have cited Bolsonaro depleting the agencies that would address such disasters. The number of fires spotted across the Amazon this month are at their highest since 2010, according to the New York Times. They're believed to have been intentionally set by farmers and cattle businesses to clear land, who reportedly now feel emboldened by Bolsonaro's response.

Adding to the Brazilian military deployment, international leaders attending the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, agreed Monday to immediately send $20 million to the Brazilian government — primarily to fly more planes to the Amazon, according to the Associated Press.

French President Emmanuel Macron said at the G7 Sunday that France would start sending its military to the Amazon within hours, according to the Guardian. (Macron previously called the fires an “international crisis,” reportedly upsetting Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro was panned for criticizing Macron’s wife over the weekend.) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also offered aircraft to Brazil, which Bolsonaro accepted, according to the Guardian.

The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, and plays a critical role in fighting the devastating effects of climate change by absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide. Additionally, the Amazon is home to one million indigenous people and millions of plant and animal species. While Bolsonaro’s administration has said 44,000 troops are available to help firefighting efforts, it’s not clear how much is being done and where troops are being deployed, according to the Guardian.

Cover: Fire consumes an area near Porto Velho, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Brazilian state experts have reported a record of nearly 77,000 wildfires across the country so far this year, up 85% over the same period in 2018. Brazil contains about 60% of the Amazon rainforest, whose degradation could have severe consequences for global climate and rainfall. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)