Fires have been raging all year in Argentina, not even pausing during the winter chill. At the start of this week, 434,975 hectares nationwide had already been affected by forest and bush fires, with 10 provinces in particular bearing the brunt.
That list is headed by Entre Ríos, which had already lost 165,108 hectares to fires this year through to mid-September, according to official data compiled by the National Fire Management Service.
More recently Córdoba has been more the focus of news coverage with images of its 48,410 hectares ablaze, a disaster which has already claimed the lives of fire fighter Cristóbal Varela and restaurant owner José Roble.
Next on the worst-affected list follow Río Negro (35.527 hectares) and Santa Fe (28,950), with the latter’s fires concentrated in Delta areas adjacent to Entre Ríos.
"This is ecocide. Only ashes remain. We’ve eliminated most of the reptiles as well as mice, beavers, etc. taking refuge in the swampland during the winter, all dead. This green spine cannot tolerate seven months of fires of this magnitude. The state has to allocate resources to protect the environment while provincial ministers must be strong and funded,” Santa Fe ecologist César Massi said in an interview with Perfil on Monday.
The list continues with Santiago del Estero (26,791) and Chaco (23,303 hectares), the latter with the fastest exponential growth despite the lower acreage since half the fires have come since late July with as many as 2,900 outbreaks in a single day.
According to Chaco provincial Civil Protection Undersecretary Mario Sandoval, many of the fires are deliberately caused by farmers in the south of the province to clear chaff and fertilise fields while in urban areas the idea is to burn rubbish. According to the Somos Monte environmental organisation, virtually every fire has an intentional human cause with drought merely magnifying traditional annual customs.
Catamarca (20,801 hectares), Formosa (15,459) and Neuquén (15.409) complete the list of the 10 most affected provinces.