By Daniel Ramos
SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Wildfires raging in eastern Bolivia have burned more than 450,000 hectares (1.1 million acres), or roughly an area the size of the U.S. state of Delaware, officials in San Cruz province estimate.
Bolivian officials said on Thursday they were awaiting the arrival of a “Supertanker 747” fire-fighting plane in a last-ditch effort to tame the wildfires.
“We believe that with this plane, we can put out the fire,” said Defense Minister Javier Zavaleta. Zavaleta did not specify how much land area continued to burn.
Officials gave conflicting reports on when the fire-fighting plane was due to arrive in Bolivia. It was also unclear where the plane was currently stationed.
Thousands of wildfires are decimating the Brazilian Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest. The blazes have nearly doubled this year when compared with the same period in 2018, according to Brazilian officials, prompting global outrage.
The Amazon’s basin’s vast forests are widely seen by scientists as a buffer against climate change.
Bolivian officials have called on neighbouring Paraguay and Brazil to help with the fire-fighting, which spans borders across several South American nations.
Bolivia is one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere, but also, one of the richest in biodiversity.
Santa Cruz province, where the wildfires have burned, is a critical area for agriculture and cattle-rearing.
(Reporting by Daniel Ramos, writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)