'This is apocalyptic': Amazon wildfire smoke plunges Brazilian city into complete darkness

Amazon jungle fire

Amazon fires: Brazilian rainforest burning at record rate, space agency warns

Bolsonaro's comments are likely to enrage critics, who have become increasingly concerned by his administration's attitudes toward the Amazon rainforest, one of the world's most important bulwarks against climate change.

However, data released by Brazil's space agency, The National Institute for Space Research (INPE), found satellite data detected over 72,000 fires since January, which is 83 per cent more than the same period previous year.

Brazil is home to more than half of the Amazon.

That's the gist of an announcement this week by the country's National Institute for Space Research, or INPE.

But Thursday, August 15, saw a sharp increase in the number of fires, with INPE recording more than 9,5000 infernos since that date.

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While they can occur naturally, fires are frequently ignited intentionally by ranchers and agriculturists who want to clear land for business purposes. That's almost as many as all of 2018 combined.

The fire, which began more than two weeks ago, blackened the skies of Sao Paulo, Brazil's most populous city, for about an hour on Monday, providing an eerie level of darkness. Scientists say the Amazon has suffered losses at an accelerated rate since the president took office in January, with policies favouring development over conservation. However, the agency claim that their data is 95 per cent accurate and their reliability has been backed up by agencies such as the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends an International Youth Day celebration in Brasilia last week.

According to reports, the incidents of wildfires in Amazonia increased after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro opened the rainforest to corporates. He posited that these groups are trying to increase global pressure on his government - but when reporters pressed him on the point, he didn't name any specific NGOs or offer any proof for his assertion.

Bolsonaro told Reuters: "I used to be called Captain Chainsaw".

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"Crime exists", he said during the Facebook Live.

He added that his government is "not insensitive" to the fires, and that his government may look into measures to combat them.

However INPE said the large number of wildfires could not be attributed to the dry season or natural phenomena alone.

"An aerial view over a chemically deforested area of the Amazon jungle caused by illegal mining activities in the river basin of the Madre de Dios region in southeast Peru, on May 17, 2019, during the "Mercury" joint operation by Peruvian military and police ongoing since February 2019". The INPE says the amount of land that was deforested last month alone represented a almost 300% surge over deforestation in June 2018. Less than a year into his term, the Amazon in Brazil has lost over 1,330 square miles of forest cover, marking a 39% increase from the same time period in 2018. "We usually would see this surge of fire in very, very exceptionally dry years".

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