Warplanes dump water on Amazon as Brazil military begins fighting fires

Global outcry at rainforest destruction prompts authorisation of military action

Brazilian air force    Hercules C130 plane dropping water on the Amazon forest in the state of Rondonia. Photograph: Brazil air force

Brazilian air force Hercules C130 plane dropping water on the Amazon forest in the state of Rondonia. Photograph: Brazil air force

 

Brazilian warplanes are dumping water on the burning forest in the Amazon state of Rondonia, responding to a global outcry over the destruction of the world’s largest tropical rainforest, according to a government video.

As of Sunday, President Jair Bolsonaro had authorised military operations in seven states to combat raging fires in the Amazon, responding to requests for assistance from their local governments, a spokeswoman for his office said.

The video posted by the defence ministry on Saturday evening showed a military plane pumping thousands of litres of water out of two giant jets as it passed through clouds of smoke close to the forest canopy.

The response comes as leaders of countries in the Group of Seven (G7) nations currently meeting in France expressed grave concerns over the fires.

French president Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said the G7 was nearing a deal to provide “technical and financial help” to countries affected by the Amazon fires.

Days of criticism

Nearly 80,000 fires have been registered across Brazil up to August 24th, the highest since at least 2013, according to space research agency INPE.

Mr Bolsonaro announced the military would be sent in on Friday after several days of criticism from the public and world leaders that Brazil’s government was not doing anything to fight the fires.

But outside of Rondonia, the government had yet to give operational details for other states. The defence ministry said in a briefing on Saturday that 44,000 troops were available in Brazil’s northern Amazon region but did not say how many would be used where and what they would do.

The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for more details on Sunday.

Carbon sink

Justice minister Sergio Moro had also authorised a force of military police to assist in fighting the fires, with 30 set to be sent from Brasilia to Porto Velho. The president’s office posted to Twitter a photo of police officers on a plane bound for Rondonia set to arrive at noon.

Environment minister Ricardo Salles posted a video showing a caravan of yellow fire-prevention trucks and other government vehicles, saying they were on the ground responding in Rondonia.

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

Brazilian climate scientist Carlos Nobre said he worries if 20-25 per cent of the ecosystem is destroyed that the Amazon could reach a tipping point, after which it would enter a self-sustaining period of dieback as the forest converts to savannah. Nobre warned that it is not far off with already 15-17 per cent of the rainforest having been destroyed.