This situation report is based on information received from UN Agencies, the UN Emergency Technical Team (UNETT) Secretariat of Emergency, Secretariat of Environment and Red Cross International in Paraguay
1. A traditional grass management system expanded in the eastern region of Paraguay and the low Chaco becoming the largest grass and forest fire ever registered in Paraguay.
2. Burning pastures is an ancient practice developed during the months of August and September in order to extend or renew existing grasslands. Drought conditions, lack of rainfall, large deforestation process and prevailing north-winds, have created optimum conditions for the spread of fire in many cases uncontrolled.
3. Fires spread to now almost 500,000 hectares within the northeastern and western regions, while no major rains are expected. Latest reports estimate about 15,000 families (approximately 100,000 persons) affected by fires and 8 deaths. Data from the countrys most affected departments indicate the following (see maps attached):
8,000 hectares of small holdings 70,000 hectares of grassland burned
DEPARTMENT OF CANINDEYU
Other damage reports not yet available
DEPARTMENT OF AMAMBAY
Other damage reports not yet available
Additionally, biodiversity loss is expected to be substantial, since preliminary reports show that most national parks have been affected (Annex 1), and specifically
MBARACAYU: 2,700 hectares burned
PARQUE NACIONAL YBYCUI: 500 ha burned
AREA YBYTURUZU: 5,000 hectares burned
No damage reports yet available for other parks.
ASSISTANCE AND IMMEDIATE NEEDS
4. Medicines for the treatment of acute respiratory infections, nebulizers and oxygen, water provision and medical assistance are main items demanded by counterparts and coordination units. More than 10,000 families are directly affected within 15,000 hectares in 4 departments.
5. Additional non-immediate needs in the area of Concepción and Amambay: 703 food-kits, 170 roofs (CF), 170 mattresses, 170 blankets, 6 water tanks (5000 litres) and 2000 m2 of plastic sheeting.
6. Specifically, immediate needs also include: Food kits for 1,922 (approximately 10,000) persons in SAN PEDRO, CONCEPCION, and other regions. Water for 3860 families from CONCEPCION region. Medicine for the treatment of acute respiratory infections.
7. The government declared a regional state of emergency in the departments of Concepción, San Pedro, Amambay and Presidente Hayes, due to long drought conditions (three months) and the burning of forests, agricultural lands and houses, for a period of 60 days as of 07/09/07 (Decree 10,867).
8. 1,000 government officials were recently mobilized in these areas for the direct field support among physicians, military staff and operational support. However, the dispersion of more than 2,000 fire seats of uncontrollable dimensions is becoming a serious threat for more than 70 local communities in these four departments.
9. The National Emergency Secretariat is coordinating operational actions and the fire control was delegated to the Paraguayan Voluntary Fire Service (CBVP) which is providing response with the deployment of its Forest Fire Team.(Operations Command of the (CBVP) has established a permanent communications base on the Pindoty Ranch in Tacuatí, linking operations with the capital city of Asunción). Firemen from Carapeguá and Itaipu Binacional have also been recruited to bolster the CBVP forces, although they are insufficient considering the uncontrollable expansion of fire.
10. The Ministry of Health and Public Welfare (MSPBS) has established a medical station equipped to deal with emergencies, supported by an airambulance from the National Air Force to assist relief-workers and communities requiring urgent evacuation, and three ambulances which are way insufficient for such a demand.
11. Humanitarian response is being led by the National Emergency Secretariat; however, conditions of remote communities and rural families have not been duly assessed. Lack of damages and humanitarian needs assessment is one of the most important weaknesses.
12. The UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) is monitoring the situation, in cooperation with national authorities and the Red Cross.
13. OCHA has provided an emergency cash grant of USD 50,000 for the local purchase of emergency relief supplies.