Environment

Fires in Brazil's Amazon rainforest surged by 84% this year, space agency says

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Record-breaking number of fires burn in Brazil's Amazon

Brazil's Amazon rainforest experienced an 84% surge in wildfires this year, according to the country's space agency.

The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) used satellites to record the number of wildfires that occurred in several Latin American countries between January 1 and August 20.

INPE's data showed that the number of fires in Brazil rose by 84% from the same period in 2018, with more than 70,000 fires detected in Brazil's Amazon Rainforest so far this year — the highest number since records began in 2013.

Smoke from forest fires caused a daytime blackout in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo on Monday, the BBC reported, with strong winds reportedly transporting smoke to the city from fires burning more than 1,700 miles away.

INPE's findings come amid rising concerns over Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's environmental policies, with his prioritization of the economy potentially driving focus away from protecting Brazil's rainforests.

Bolsonaro has previously said the rise in wildfires was simply down to "queimada" — the time of year when farmers use fire to clear land — according to Reuters.

The Brazilian leader also faced backlash after he suggested in April that Brazil may open a protected reserve in the Amazon to mining, saying in a televised address the country should "use the riches that God gave us."

Earlier this month, INPE chief Ricardo Galvao told reporters he had been dismissed over data that showed an accelerated rate of deforestation in the Amazon.

Meanwhile, environmental associations in Europe have warned that an EU trade deal with Brazil could lead to further deforestation, as space could be cleared to increase the available areas for cattle farming.

— Reuters and CNBC's Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.