Pope Francis has asked people to pray that wildfires in the Amazon will be brought under control

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By Mark Armstrong
Pope Francis has asked people to pray that wildfires in the Amazon will be brought under control

Pope Francis has added to the concerns over the number of fires destroying rainforest in the Amazon region of South America.

Speaking during Sunday Angelus the Pontiff warned of the far-reaching repercussions:

"Let us pray so that, with the efforts of all, they are controlled as quickly as possible. The lungs of the forests are vital for our planet."

At least six states in Brazil have asked for help from the military to combat the blazes.

The country's National Space Research Institute, which monitors deforestation, has recorded over 76,000 wildfires across the country so far this year. That's an 85% rise over last year's figure. And a little over half of those have been spotted in the Amazon region.

There are also fires in neighbouring Bolivia where around 800,000 hectares of tropical rainforest have been destroyed in the province of Santa Cruz.

A Boeing SuperTanker and six other planes have been deployed to help extinguish the fires. Local people have also been helping firefighters to stop the flames from spreading.

"We came as volunteers to help to control these flames, but they just seem to be taking hold faster," said local resident and volunteer firefighter Armando Pinto.

"We go to any place and it continues spreading. We need everyone to come and help us because alone we are not enough," added another volunteer, Sabrina Cuellar.

Almost 650 new fires were started over the weekend according to the Bolivian Forest and Land Authority.

Officials estimate that it will take 200 years for the area's forest to be restored to its original state

"It's very sad to see everything that has been lost," said Elugio Cesare, a Chiquitano tribe member. "Even the animals, the birds have burned. There's nothing left."

Bolivia has added its voice to calls for international help to battle the wildfires.

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