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Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon highest since 2008: official

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Brasília (AFP)

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil surged to nearly 10,000 square kilometers in the year to July 2019 -- the highest in more than a decade, officials said Monday.

The 29.5 percent increase from the previous 12-month period comes after fires ravaged swathes of the Amazon this year, igniting a global outcry and diplomatic feud between President Jair Bolsonaro and European leaders.

Satellite data collected by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) show 9,762 square kilometers (3,770 square miles) were cleared of trees, INPE officials told AFP.

That is the highest since the same period in 2008.

Para was the hardest hit of the nine states that make up the Amazon in Brazil, with nearly 4,000 square kilometers deforested.

Previous data showed clearing in the Amazon nearly doubled in the first eight months of this year, compared with the same period in 2018, to 6,404 square kilometers.

Greenpeace blamed the dismantling of environmental protections under Bolsonaro for the sharp increase in deforestation.

Bolsonaro's "government is throwing away all the work that has been done in recent decades for environmental protection," said Cristiane Mazzetti, a Greenpeace campaigner in Brazil.

Pro-business Bolsonaro took power in January on a promise to open up more of the Amazon to loggers, miners and farmers.

Faced with criticism over the fires and tree clearing, Bolsonaro accused non-government organizations of starting the blazes, and France and others of threatening Brazil's sovereignty over the rainforest.

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