The Bolivian government on Sept. 14 declared a state of emergency in the eastern departments of Santa Cruz and Beni due to the existence of more than a thousand forest fires that have destroyed thousands of hectares of forests and plantations.
Farmers burning of vegetation, a routine practice at this time of the year to make way for new areas to plant, set off the forest fires.
“High temperatures, the drought and strong variable winds have combined and caused a multiplying effect,” said Ricardo Saucedo, director of Natural Resources and Environment at the Prefecture of Santa Cruz.
The dense cloud of smoke, which spread over five departments including La Paz and Cochabamba, have killed at least two people while hundreds have been evacuated.
Eduardo Chávez, national director of health, warned “adverse climatic conditions that threaten to provoke an alert of respiratory illnesses and conjunctivitis could be aggravated by the strong concentration of smoke due to the lack of rain.”
The dense smoke, according to a technician of the Santa Cruz Agricultural Service, is at a saturation level “that makes it difficult to breath.”.