PORTO VELHO: Hundreds of new fires are raging in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil, official data showed on Saturday, amid growing international pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro to control the worst blazes in years.

Multiple fires were seen across a vast area of the north-western state of Rondonia on Friday when journalists flew over the area.

Several people in the capital Porto Velho said on Saturday that what appeared to be light clouds hanging over the city was actually smoke from the blazes.

“I’m very worried because of the environment and health,” Delmara Conceicao Silva said. “I have a daughter with respiratory problems and she suffers more because of the fires.”

The fires in the world’s largest rainforest have triggered a global outcry and are a major topic of concern at the G7 meeting in Biarritz in southern France.

Official figures show 78,383 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil this year, the highest number for any year since 2013. Experts say the clearing of land during the months-long dry season to make way for crops or grazing has aggravated the problem.

More than half of the fires are in the Amazon, where more than 20 million people live. Some 1,663 new fires were ignited between Thursday and Friday, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

The new data came a day after Bolsonaro authorised the deployment of the military to fight the fires and crack down on criminal activity in the region.

US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, both attending the G7 summit, have offered their countries’ assistance in fighting the fires.

“Any help is welcome in respect to the fires,” Brazil’s Defence Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva told reporters.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2019