Central Africa’s rainforests are currently being consumed by a vast system of forest fires dwarfing even those that are ravaging the Amazon. Hundreds of thousands of hectares have been engulfed by flames over the past weeks—to comparatively little notice in the world media. Bloomberg reported Aug. 23 that Weather Source satellite data recorded 6,902 fires in Angola over the past 48 hours, and 3,395 in the Democratic Republic of Congo compared to 2,127 in Brazil. French newspaper La Voix du Nord states, “In Angola, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, thousands of fires consume phenomenal amounts of vegetation.” Since the beginning of 2019, it is the DRC that has recorded the most fires, far ahead of Brazil. NASA attributes the fires to “widespread agricultural burning,” as farmers employ slash-and-burn methods to clear land for crops.
In the 24-hour period of Aug. 22-3, NASA detected the most fires by far in Angola, followed by the DRC, Brazil and Zambia. These top four were followed by Australia and Russia.
After Central Africa and the Amazon, the largest fire system on the planet over the past weeks has been in Siberia, where some 12 million hectares have been burned this year. At their greatest extent earlier this month, smoke from the Siberian fires covered an area greater than the European Union, according to satellite data. Russian President Vladimir Putin has mobilized military forces to battle the flames in the remote region. (Taarifa, Rwanda, Aug. 25; EuroNews, Aug. 14; The Guardian, July 31)