Vietnam forest fires rise sharply in drought

Vietnam forest fires rise sharply in drought

09 March 2010

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Vietnam —  Drought-driven forest fires in Vietnam this year have already consumed an area greater than the entire area burned in 2008 or 2009, officials said Tuesday. Fires have destroyed 1,600 hectares of forest so far this year, said Do Thanh Hai, a senior official at Vietnam’s Forest Protection Department. That area is more than 10 times the rate measured in the first two months of 2008 or 2009, which each saw just more than 140 hectares destroyed.

Hai blamed the fires on a drought that has left Vietnam’s north-western provinces with almost no rainfall from October to February.

“Such a long-lasting drought is somewhat strange,” Hai said. “Dry weather and high temperatures are coinciding with the time when farmers burn their fields to prepare for cultivation, which creates a serious risk of forest fires.”

Vietnam’s north-west experiences a dry season from November to February while its Central Highlands are dry from April to September. The forest fire season in the Central Highlands has yet to begin.

Vietnam’s north has experienced a severe drought this winter, associated with a strong El Nino phenomenon, which is the warming of waters in the Pacific Ocean. In January, the Red River in Hanoi was measured at its lowest level in more than 100 years.

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