The following report has been transmitted by John Anderson, Global Emergency Response
(6 January 2001)
Seven people have died overnight, trying to put out scrubland fires that have destroyed more than 1.6 million hectares (3,953,670 acres) of land in central Argentina over the past month. Officials say a total of eight people have died as a result of the fires, which were caused last month by electrical storms and the burning of dry grass and brush by cattle farmers, and then fanned out of control by strong winds.
A local government official in the province of Mendoza, where about 450,000 hectares (1,111,970 acres) have been scorched, says most residents are safe for the moment. The fires have not reached populated areas yet, but while we have had a little rain recently, the region will be on fire alert throughout the summer,” he said.
Fires are still out of control in parts of the worst-affected zone, the neighbouring Pampas, where an estimated 1.2 million hectares (2,965,253 acres) of scrubland have been ravaged. Several hundred head of cattle have been destroyed by the fires in the Pampas, although crops have not yet been damaged.
The Government has been criticised for being slow to help the provinces tackle the blazes. Such fires are more common in forest land farther south in Patagonia, which has been unaffected so far.
The large fires have been reported repeatedly by the GFMC:
Last incident reports on 29 December 2000.
First reports were provided on 12, 13, 15 and 21 December 2000.
For fire background information see: Pre-publication of the Argentina Country Report “Forest Fire Situation in Argentina” for the FAO Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000).
For further remotly sensed images see the GFMC archive: Brazil and Neighbouring Countries, and Argentina.