Colombia to declare a natural disaster over wildfires
BOGOTA: (Reuters) Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro said he will declare that wildfires burning in the country are a natural disaster, freeing up funds to fight the blazes amid soaring temperatures and the El Nino weather phenomenon.
Colombia has put out some 204 fires this month – around eight per day – and 25 fires continued to burn, according to a report from the environment ministry and the disaster agency.
Almost half of the 2 trillion peso budget ($508 million) for addressing issues caused by El Nino, like fighting fires, has already been spent, the report said.
Declaring a natural disaster “means some budget items can be moved to other areas to address problems that arise, such as transferring resources so that helicopters can be put into action to put out the fires,” Petro told journalists in Colombia’s Cauca province.
Smoke billowed from a wooded, mountainous area east of capital Bogota on Wednesday afternoon as helicopters ferried water to fight the blaze.
Colombia, one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, is seeing the effects of its typical dry season combine with strong El Nino weather, which typically produces hotter and drier weather.