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Pope calls for global commitment to put out Amazon fires

A tract of Amazon jungle burns as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Novo Airao, Amazonas state, Brazil. Photograph:( Reuters )

Agencies New Delhi, Delhi, India Aug 25, 2019, 03.56 PM (IST)

Pope Francis on Sunday called for a global commitment to put out the fires in the Amazon, saying the area was essential for the health of the planet.

"We are all worried about the vast fires that have developed in the Amazon. Let us pray so that with the commitment of all, they can be put out soon. That lung of forests is vital for our planet," he told thousands of people in St. Peter's Square for his weekly address.

The Amazon is the world's largest tropical rainforest and its protection is seen as vital to the fight against climate change because of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide it absorbs.

Meanwhile, official data showed on Saturday that hundreds of new fires are raging in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil as thousands of troops were made available to help fight the worst blazes in years following a global outcry. 

Multiple fires billowing huge plumes of smoke into the air were seen across a vast area of the northwestern state of Rondonia on Friday when AFP journalists flew over the area. 

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

More than half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin, 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). 

Seven states, including Rondonia, have requested the army's help in the Amazon, where more than 43,000 troops are based and available to combat fires, officials said. Firefighters and planes are also being deployed. 

Six aircraft, including two Hercules C-130s equipped to carry 12,000 liters (3,170 gallons) of water each, have been sent to Rondonia to fight the fires. They are expected to be joined by 30 firefighters on Sunday.

Story highlights

The Amazon is the world's largest tropical rainforest and its protection is seen as vital to the fight against climate change because of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide it absorbs.