Paraguay Declares Emergency as Forest Fires Rage
The fires have spread in recent days, destroying dozens of
rural homes in the poor South American country and forcing some
flights to be diverted from the biggest airport earlier this
week because of the smoke.
"At the moment, we're trying to resolve the problem, tackle
the crisis and deal with the circumstances," Trade and Industry
Minister Jose Maria Ibanez told reporters after a cabinet
meeting amid growing criticism of the government's response.
The regional state of emergency was declared in the
provinces of San Pedro, Concepcion and Amambay, giving
authorities extra resources to fight the fires and help
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry said 400 soldiers would
be sent to the worst-affected areas where troops and
firefighters are already working to control the fires. Aid
trucks stocked with food and tents were sent for evacuees.
"With these measures, I think the situation can be brought
under control, though not 100 percent until we get some rain,"
said the government's farming chief, Alfredo Molinas.
The fires were initially started by peasant farmers
clearing wooded areas and renewing pastures -- a common
practice in Paraguay, but dry conditions have caused them to
spread over an estimated 100,000 hectares (247,100 acres),