Bolivia declares emergency over forest fires

  • Published

A state of emergency has been declared in Bolivia as forest fires spread across the country.

Almost 25,000 fires have destroyed about 1.5m hectares (3.7m acres) of land and more than 60 houses.

The worst of the destruction has taken place in Bolivia's Amazon and eastern regions, close to the country's border with Brazil.

Smoke from the fires has also delayed numerous flights and forced several airports to close for short periods.

President Evo Morales described the fires as "a natural phenomenon", despite explaining that they were mostly caused by farmers clearing land ahead of the planting season.

He said they had lost control of them and the fires had spread rapidly.

Praying for rain

Mr Morales also admitted that his government could not fight the fires adequately because it lacked water-bombing aircraft.

He said he had requested help from neighbouring Brazil and Argentina.

Bolivian government official Cliver Rocha told the BBC that many villages and small towns were at risk from the fires, as well as parks.

Many people have been trying to tackle the fires with buckets of water.

He said Bolivians were praying for rain. However, forecasts do not indicate rain in the next few days.

Indigenous people and small farmers in the Amazon region have traditionally burnt large tracts of land to increase areas of cultivation.

But this year, insufficient rainfall and strong winds have made the fires very difficult to keep under control.

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