Brasilia: In view of the raging wildfires at Amazon rainforest in Brazil, the neighbouring Amazonas state had declared an emergency. The wildfires were so intense that smoke loomed over the city of Sao Paulo, more than a thousand miles away, noted non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace.

Over 74,000 fires were recorded between January 1 and August 20, stated the space agency of Brazil adding that more than 9,500 forest fires had broken out since last Thursday, mostly in the Amazon region. Notably, the head of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research was fired in July after President Jair Bolsonaro disputed the official deforestation data from satellites.

Meanwhile, the US space agency NASA stated, “Although it is not unusual to see fires in Brazil at this time of year due to high temperatures and low humidity it seems this year the number of fires may be record setting.”

The largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming. It is also home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people.

Environmental activists blamed President Bolsonaro for the current situation, saying he encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land. Scientists say the rainforest has suffered losses at an accelerated rate since he took office in January.

According to reports, there was a sharp spike in deforestation during July, which was followed by extensive burning in August.

Local newspapers said farmers in some regions were organizing “fire days” to take advantage of weaker enforcement by the authorities.

An international outcry prompted Norway and Germany to halt donations to Brazil’s Amazon Fund, which supports many environmental NGOs as well as government agencies. There have also been calls for Europe to block a trade deal with Brazil and other South American nations.

(With inputs from IANS)