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Brazil Amazon fires likely worst in 10 years, August data incomplete, government researcher says

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BRASILIA: The official August data on the number of fires in Brazil's Amazon needs to be corrected and will likely show an increase over last year, meaning that blazes surged to a decade high, a scientist responsible for the figures told Reuters on Wednesday (Sep 2).

Brazilian media has reported that fires in Brazil's section of the Amazon rainforest fell by 5 per cent in August, citing data currently on the website of government space research agency Inpe that has not been corrected.

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Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at Inpe who is involved in producing the official fire data, said that the reporting of finalised data had been delayed by an error with a NASA satellite.

But once that issue is corrected, it will likely show that fires increased by between 1 per cent and 2 per cent in August 2020 compared to the same month a year ago, Setzer said. That would mean it is the worst spate of fires for the month since August 2010.

"It's going to be up. The number of fires, fire pixels, will increase. Maybe up to 1 or 2 per cent, I would guess," Setzer said, referring to spots of heat registered on satellite images.

Inpe's press office and the science and technology ministry, which oversees the space research agency, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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The press office for President Jair Bolsonaro declined to comment, directing questions to the office of Vice President Hamilton Mourao, who has been placed in charge of Amazon affairs. Mourao's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the environment ministry declined to comment.

A surge in fires in August 2019 to a nine-year high provoked outcry from global leaders and the public that Brazil was not doing enough to protect the world's largest rainforest, with Bolsonaro trading barbs with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Environmental advocates and scientists say that Bolsonaro is to blame for weakening environmental protections and calling for the development of the Amazon, emboldening illegal loggers and land speculators to clear the forest.

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