Manaus, the primary urban center in the Brazilian Amazon, has been engulfed for days by a toxic cloud resulting from fires ignited by, as the Ministry of Environment warned on Friday, “criminals.” The fires in the Amazon have caused a thick gray layer of smoke to settle over the state capital of the Amazon. The city’s air quality ranks among the worst in the world, according to the World Air Quality Index. Health authorities have urgently advised residents to minimize exposure to the smoke in the coming days due to the significant risks, particularly related to respiratory illnesses, associated with inhaling the fumes.
This October marks the worst fire season in the state in the last 25 years, with a dramatic increase in the number of active fire spots. The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) recorded 2,770 active fire spots in the region, representing a 154% increase compared to the same period last year.
In response to the crisis, the Brazilian government announced the dispatch of two helicopters and an additional 149 firefighters to reinforce the 140 already engaged in firefighting efforts in the region. During a press conference, Environment Minister Marina Silva linked the fires to “criminals” who use them to clear land for agriculture or livestock after deforesting the area.
These fires are occurring amid an extreme drought in the region, leading to critically low river levels that are hindering transportation and supply efforts for approximately half a million people.
Due to the thick smoke, several events in the city, including a marathon, have been canceled, highlighting the dire impact of the environmental catastrophe on daily life in Manaus.