Mexico,12 May 2003 – Four volunteer firefighters died this week in forest fires causedby a severe heat wave that has swept Mexico, authorities said.
Fires inseveral states across Mexico have destroyed at least 150,000 hectares (370,500acres) of forest, jungle and pasture according to official figures.
Temperatureshave surged to between 40 and 44 degrees Centigrade (104 and 111 degreesFahrenheit) in the northern states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas, central San LuisPotosi and in southern states such as Campeche, Yucatan and Chiapas. Thegovernment has declared 82 municipalities in the southern states of Oaxaca,Campeche and Chiapas “disaster zones”. “Threefederal entities (states) were declared in disaster and we will assess thedamage so we can assign natural disaster funds,” Carmen Segura, coordinatorof the government’s National Civil Protection System, told Reuters. Segurasaid four people died fighting a fire caused by the heat in Oaxaca. No one hasdied from dehydration or other direct effects of the heat, according to CivilProtection and the Health Ministry. In2002 some 200,000 hectares (acres) were destroyed by fires. Expertssay the heat wave and dry atmosphere caused by the climatic phenomenon “ElNino” could continue until August, and that more fires could wreak furtherdamage. “If therains arrive late we could see the effects of drought and other consequences foragriculture,” said Segura. Thisweek Mexico City, home to some 18.5 million in the wider metropolitan area,registered near record temperatures of 33.5 degrees Centigrade (92 degreesFahrenheit). Authoritiesacross the nation have issued recommendations urging Mexicans to drink a lot ofliquids. Mexico’sbiggest farming body said its members were experiencing problems irrigatingtheir crops since the 137 main dams contained scarcely 20 percent of theircapacity.