Colombia: around twenty forest fires in the middle of a heat wave

Around twenty forest fires, including one on the heights of the capital Bogota, are now affecting Colombia, according to a new report from the authorities on Wednesday. “There are 21 active fires throughout the country,” Civil Protection (UNGRD) said in a statement. On Tuesday, authorities reported four forest fires, including one in the mountains of the cordillera overlooking Bogota. These fires affect the departments of Vichada (east), Antioquia (west), Santander (east), Valledupar (north), Norte de Santander (northeast), and Boyaca (center). The most affected department is Cundinamarca (center), of which Bogota is also the capital, with fires affecting at least five municipalities. Paramos, a key mountain ecosystem for the water cycle, were consumed by the flames. Nine municipalities in the north, center and east of the country recorded record temperatures of up to 40.4°C on Tuesday.

“It’s the El Niño phenomenon made worse by global warming”

“The mayors were warned of the seriousness of the El Niño phenomenon (…) The forecasts (of the specialized services) turned out to be correct,” commented on the X network President Gustavo Petro, who had already warned on January 10: “we are on red alert for forest fires”.

“It is the El Niño phenomenon made worse by global warming. It is perhaps the hottest year in the history of humanity throughout the world,” he said, calling “each mayor, every governor and the national government to make water a priority.”

“The national plan to supply water to the dozens of municipalities that are currently without it is working. So far, we have put out hundreds of fires,” he assured Wednesday. The fire raging above Bogota has been burning since Monday in the mountain range that borders the city to the east, known as “Cerros Orientales”. At least 12 hectares of forest were affected. “The work carried out throughout the night made it possible to contain the fire. At this time, we can speak of 70% control of the fire,” said Mayor Carlos Fernando Galan. More than 270 firefighters, soldiers and rescue workers are trying to contain the fire, with the help of two equipped helicopters, a light aircraft and drones. Four people were slightly injured, according to the municipality.

The authorities have also warned of a “significant deterioration” in air quality in the capital of some 8 million inhabitants. Wild animals were seen taking refuge in the lower, urbanized part of the hills. Tuesday, the mayor explained that this fire could have been caused by a fire started by residents. A criminal investigation is underway. The Colombian climate authority (Ideam) has placed 883 of the country’s 1,101 municipalities on fire alert, with more than half (586) on red alert.

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