Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

International

Neri dos Santos Silva, center, watches an encroaching fire threat after digging trenches to keep the flames from spreading to the farm he works on, in the Nova Santa Helena municipality, in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Under increasing international pressure to contain fires sweeping parts of the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday authorized use of the military to battle the massive blazes. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil says military aircraft and 44,000 troops will be available to fight fires sweeping through parts of the Amazon region.

The defense and environment ministers on Saturday described plans to battle the blazes that have prompted an international outcry as well as demonstrations in Brazil against President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the environmental crisis.

Bolsonaro on Friday authorized the military to get involved in putting out the fires, saying he is committed to protecting the Amazon region.

Bolsonaro has previously described rainforest protections as an obstacle to Brazil’s economic development, sparring with critics who say the Amazon absorbs vast amounts of greenhouse gasses and is crucial for efforts to contain climate change.

Many of the fires were set in already deforested areas by people clearing farmland.

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