Bolivia ramps up efforts to control wildfires

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019   •   294

Firefighters battle one sector of wildfires at night in Bolivia. (Reuters)

Bolivian firefighters continued battling on Wednesday (August 21) a series of wildfires ravaging swathes of the country from both land and air.

Using a helicopter to dump water on hot spots, firefighters also used dirt and sand to put out smaller flames in Santa Cruz. Television images showed flames dangerously close to the highway that leads to Brazil.

Bolivia’s government has reported that nearly 500,000 hectares of forest have been left charred from wildfires.

This week, authorities warned that 70% of Santa Cruz Department is under “extreme risk” from forest fires.

Environmental organisations have also warned of damage to more than 500 species of fauna, some endemic, after slash-and-burn tactics combined with dry conditions have caused dozens of forest fires in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday (August 21), President Evo Morales said measures are being stepped up to battle the fires.

Bolivia’s wildfires come as neighbouring Brazil also battles record-breaking fires in its Amazon. (Reuters)

(Production: Monica Machicao)

‘We can’t keep up’ – Brazil residents battle blazes

UNTV News   •   September 6, 2019

Residents in Brazil’s vast Mato Grosso state were battling blazes spreading in dry brush while Brazil’s military arrived at a remote jungle location to fight the fires that continue to plague the South American nation and threaten the world’s largest rainforest: the Amazon.

As fires spread through dry vegetation and threatened a local farm near Agua Boa in Mato Gross on Wednesday (September 04), local resident Francicles Niatslovs told Reuters a water truck fighting the flames, “but we can’t keep up, its all burning.”

The number of blazes in Brazil has skyrocketed 80% in the year to date compared to the same period in 2018, according to data from space research agency INPE.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s military on Wednesday was aiding efforts to combat the blazes in a remote area of Amazonas state. Military personnel joined firefighters spraying smoldering logs to prevent fires from restarting and spreading.

On August 24, Brazil’s joint military chief said that the country has some 44,000 troops stationed in its northern Amazon region that available to combat forest fires and could send more from elsewhere in the country. (REUTERS)

Hong Kong leader says she would ‘quit’ if she could; fears her ability to resolve crisis now ‘very limited’

Robie de Guzman   •   September 3, 2019

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she has caused “unforgivable havoc” by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording of remarks she made last week to a group of business people.

At the closed-door meeting, Lam told the group that she now has “very limited” room to resolve the crisis because the unrest has become a national security and sovereignty issue for China amid rising tensions with the United States.

“If I have a choice,” she said, speaking in English, “the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.”

Lam’s dramatic and at times anguished remarks offer the clearest view yet into the thinking of the Chinese leadership as it navigates the unrest in Hong Kong, the biggest political crisis to grip the country since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Hong Kong has been convulsed by sometimes violent protests and mass demonstrations since June, in response to a proposed law by Lam’s administration that would allow people suspected of crimes on the mainland to be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts.

The law has been shelved, but Lam has been unable to end the upheaval. Protesters have expanded their demands to include complete withdrawal of the proposal, a concession her administration has so far refused. Large demonstrations wracked the city again over the weekend.

Lam suggested that Beijing had not yet reached a turning point. She said Beijing had not imposed any deadline for ending the crisis ahead of National Day celebrations scheduled for October 1.

And she said China had “absolutely no plan” to deploy People’s Liberation Army troops on Hong Kong streets.

World leaders have been closely watching whether China will send in the military to quell the protests, as it did a generation ago in the bloody Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing.

Lam noted, however, that she had few options once an issue had been elevated “to a national level,” a reference to the leadership in Beijing, “to a sort of sovereignty and security level, let alone in the midst of this sort of unprecedented tension between the two big economies in the world.”

In such a situation, she added, “the room, the political room for the chief executive who, unfortunately, has to serve two masters by constitution, that is the central people’s government and the people of Hong Kong, that political room for maneuvering is very, very, very limited.”

Three people who attended the meeting confirmed that Lam had made the comments in a talk that lasted about half an hour. A 24-minute recording of her remarks was reviewed by Reuters.

The meeting was one of a number of “closed-door sessions” that Lam said she has been doing “with people from all walks of life” in Hong Kong.

China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, a high-level agency under China’s cabinet, the State Council, did not respond to questions submitted by Reuters. China’s State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters. (Reuters)

(Production: Hyunyoung Yi)

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Trump warns residents to heed hurricane Dorian evacuation orders

Robie de Guzman   •   September 2, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Sunday (September 1) that Hurricane Dorian would likely impact the eastern seaboard from Florida to North Carolina.

“It’s one of the largest we’ve ever seen. Its effects will be felt hundreds of miles or more from the eye of the storm and long before it potentially makes landfall,” Trump said during a briefing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Hurricane Dorian became the strongest storm in modern records to hit the northwestern Bahamas and is expected to pound the islands with up to two days of torrential rain, high waves and damaging winds as parts of Florida evacuated before it took aim at the U.S. mainland.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Dorian made landfall on Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands as a Category 5 storm on Sunday with maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (295 km per hour) and gusts of more than 220 mph (354 kph).

“Millions of people from Florida to North Carolina were bracing to see whether Dorian avoids a U.S. landfall and, as predicted, veers north into the Atlantic Ocean after hitting the Bahamas. Even a glancing blow from one of the strongest storms ever to menace Florida could bring torrential rains and damaging winds, and “a Florida landfall is still a distinct possibility,” the Miami-based NHC warned.

FEMA is moving food, water and generators into the southeastern United States, said acting Administrator Peter Gaynor has said. (Reuters)

(Production: Arlene Eiras)

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