Thousands of wildfires in South America have caused the Congress of Paraguay to declare a national emergency.
There have been over 5,000 individual wildfires so far, with further spread predicted in the following days and weeks. The fires have been said to be fuelled by record high temperatures, strong winds and the drought across South America – specifically in the Chaco region which contains many dry forests. Temperatures are beating records at 45.5C, and Paraguay’s rainfall estimates are considerably low.
Paraguay is relying mainly on citizen donations and therefore the fire-services are significantly struggling to cope with the amount and severity of the fires. Thick smoke can be seen even from Asuncion, the country’s capital.
Joaquin Roa, the chief of the National Emergency Secretariat, said “all the fires that have been generated are controlled but we have not won the battle, we cannot lower our guard”. He also stated that the Chaco area was a “breeding ground” for wildfires due to the record temperatures.
The bill, that was passed October 1, followed the government’s announcement stating they were overwhelmed by the situation. The national emergency bill has been put in place for ninety days and further resources have been set up to help aid the fire-services.
According to Guillermo Achucarro, a climate police researcher at Base-IS research centre in Asuncion, these fires are a direct result of Paraguay’s (and the global) environment: “Now, we’re literally tasting the environmental crisis: we’re breathing smoke.”
“The same thing happens every year, and every year it’s as if it were a surprise,” Achucarro said.