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Brazil's Pantanal wetlands hit by record fires in July

Handout picture released by the Mato Grosso State Fire Department showing an aerial view of forest fire at the Pantanal region, Mato Grosso state, Brazil
Handout picture released by the Mato Grosso State Fire Department showing an aerial view of forest fire at the Pantanal region, Mato Grosso state, Brazil - MATO GROSSO FIREFIGHTERS DEPARTMENT/AFP
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Brasília (AFP)

The Pantanal, the largest tropical wetlands in the world, suffered a record number of fires in July, according to satellite data, prompting the Brazilian government to deploy the army to fight them.

Brazil's national space agency, INPE, identified 1,669 fires this month in the Brazilian Pantanal, triple the number from July 2019 and the worst month on record since it began tracking in 1998.

Previously, the worst month was July 2005, with 1,259 fires.

Fires in the first seven months of the year also tripled from the same period last year, with a total of 4,203 -- even though 2019 was already a devastating year, with six times more fires than 2018.

The Brazilian defense ministry said it had sent five military planes and 320 troops to the region to fight the fires.

The Pantanal, which sits at the southern edge of the Amazon rainforest and stretches from Brazil into Paraguay and Bolivia, is home to an immense wealth of biodiversity.

Brazil's government is under pressure to do more to protect the Amazon and Pantanal.

Environmentalists accuse President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right climate change skeptic, of attacking the country's vital natural resources with policies promoting agriculture and mining on protected lands.

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