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Why is Colombia in a forest fire crisis?

Incendios en Colombia: ¿Por qué el país está enfrentando una grave crisis ambiental?

Colombia is in dire straits due to the El Niño phenomenon and a severe wave of forest fires that have hit the country.

Hundreds of hectares of forest and moors were devastated by intense flames in departments such as Cundinamarca, Boyacá, Antioquia, Santander, Huila and Bolívar.

One of the most complex emergencies is in the city of Bogotá, where there are severe fires in the eastern hills.

Authorities deployed hundreds of fire and civil defense teams; as well as police, army and air force aircraft equipped with Bambi bucket systems to try to put out the fires.

The national government appealed for international help because the fires could exceed the country's capacity to control them. Countries such as Canada, the United States, Chile, Peru and the European Union will join the support effort.

The National Unit for Risk and Disaster Management (UNGRD) reported that as of January 25, more than 30 active fires are being fought in the country.

Why do fires happen?

The El Niño phenomenon that is affecting Colombia has intensified and some areas of the country have been experiencing extreme temperatures and a lack of rainfall for several weeks.

Drought and wind promote the development of fires; Many of these could be caused by waste or by people burning out of control.

However, the country faced a greater number of fires in 2024 than at other times due to factors such as the El Niño phenomenon and directly due to the effects of climate change.

Authorities do not rule out the possibility that some of the fires may have been started intentionally, which is why the causes of these emergencies are being investigated.

Amid this panorama, the Ministry of the Environment announced that at least 583 municipalities were on alert for fires due to the El Niño phenomenon.

Since November 3, when the El Niño phenomenon began, 336 wildfires have been recorded in 174 municipalities. According to the UNGRD, at least 6,618 hectares of vegetation were destroyed.

The fires in the hills of Bogotá

Severe fires broke out in the eastern hills of the Colombian capital, producing a large column of smoke that spread to some parts of the city.

One of the fires has been active for four days and emergency responders are on site to try to put out the flames.

However, difficult terrain conditions made access to some points difficult, so helicopter support was crucial.

The mayor of the city, Carlos Fernando Galán, said that the fire recorded on El Cable hill is one of the most complex.

According to the president, the strong winds fanned the flames in an area where the broadcast antennas of radio stations and television stations are located.

“Expecting that the El Niño phenomenon will last for several months, I communicated throughout the day with representatives of the governments of Spain, the United States and Chile to request assistance, which will be channeled through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and it will enable us to improve our situation.” “Responsiveness to emergencies of this type,” he said.

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