Paraguay Battles its Worst-Ever Forest Fires
The flames have devoured more than 100,000 hectares (nearly
250,000 acres) of forest, crops and grazing pasture and burned
down dozens of rural homes in three northeastern provinces,
where a regional state of emergency was already in place.
President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, who has been criticized
for reacting too slowly, said the state would pay to rent a
Russian water-carrying aircraft that had been used to fight
devastating blazes that swept Greece in August.
"With this plane, we'll be stepping up the government's
work in the northern zone," he told reporters. The widening of
the state of emergency was posted on a government Web site.
Officials say the fires were started by farmers clearing
farmland and renewing pastures, a common practice in the
country, which is a significant producer of soybeans and beef.
However, tinder-dry conditions caused the flames to spread
close to some urban areas and into a forest reserve, where
environmental groups say protected trees are at risk.
"Trying to contain the fires is difficult because the
access is very limited," said Danilo Salas from the Moises
Bertoni Foundation, which protects the Mbaracayu reserve.
Agricultural and environmental experts say the forest fires
are the worst in the country's history.