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ARGENTINA | 04-02-2024 09:01

Fire destroys more than 3,000 hectares of native forest in Patagonia

More than 3,000 hectares of native forest in Patagonia, including a large area of Los Alerces National Park, destroyed since fire started on January 25 for reasons still under investigation.

More than 3,000 hectares of native forest in Patagonia have burned in an insatiable fire that started on January 25 for reasons still under investigation, provincial authorities in Chubut reported reported over the weekend.

The fire has affected a large area of forest in Los Alerces National Park in Chubut Province, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its biodiversity and beauty, nestled between mountains and lakes some 2,000 km southwest of the capital.

Hydrant planes, helicopters and brigadiers from several provinces are fighting the fire, which has advanced with multiple incendiary outbreaks spread by strong winds, the province’s fire management service reported on Saturday.

A light rain on Friday helped the firefighting efforts, but the weather forecast predicted lower relative humidity, higher temperatures and winds of up to 80 kilometres per hour without precipitation for the next few days, in the context of the extreme heat affecting much of the country.

"Brigadiers and firefighters are working in eight sectors attentive to the line of fire," said Chubut provincial official Laura Mirantes.

"We are working with three helicopters, two water-carrying aeroplanes and another one as observatory, added to drones that are marking us the lines of the different outbreaks and a total of 330 troops," Mirantes, Chubut’s Citizen Relations secretary, told the FM El Chubut radio station.

Police firefighters are using sniffer dogs to analyse how the fire started. Chubut Governor Ignacio Torres attributes the fire to "intentional" causes and blamed members of the Mapuche Ancestral Resistance (RAM) indigenous group as suspects.

Some Mapuche leaders themselves even doubt the existence of RAM, which is often blamed for attacks.

"The RAM are a bunch of frauds, they are as much Mapuche as I am Syrian Lebanese. They are criminals who have a real estate business and who do these things," Torres told Radio Rivadavia on Sunday.

Moira Millán, the leader of the Mapuche communities in Chubut, told AFP on Saturday that "the accusations are false and are loaded with racist hatred.” 

"To accuse the Mapuche people of [starting] the fires is profoundly ignorant, because they are the ones who ancestrally took care of these pristine areas, Los Alerces National Park exists because there were Mapuche settlers taking care of it, the state came, evicted them and in less than 200 years the ecocide has been constant," she added.

The mountainous area of Chubut is home to a hundred small Mapuche communities that survive by herding and raising livestock.

Los Alerces National Park covers an area of 260,000 hectares in the foothills of the Andes.

 

– TIMES/AFP
 

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) More than 3,000 hectares of native forest in Patagonia, including a large area of Los Alerces National Park, has been destroyed in an insatiable fire that started on January 25 for reasons still under investigation.

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