Colombia For several days now, it has been facing a series of fires that have reached even the hills that surround the capital of Bogotáwith serious consequences for air quality. In addition to the planet's general climate crisis, a meteorology expert points out that The El Niño phenomenon intensifies this situation.
A helicopter from the Colombian Aerospace Force resupplies the Bambi Bucket system with water to fight the fires. Photo: EFE
At the moment, Colombia has lost more than 17 thousand hectares of vegetation due to fires, which is equivalent to 25 thousand soccer fields.
What is the El Niño current?
The El Niño current is a climatic phenomenon that occurs in the tropical Pacific Ocean, near the coast of South America. It is characterized by an increase in sea water temperature, what causes changes in wind patterns and ocean circulation.
This in turn affects the climate in different regions of the world, causing droughts, floods and other extreme events. This phenomenon occurs periodically every 2 to 7 years and can have significant impacts on agriculture, fisheries and the economy of the affected areas.
Vegetation reduced to ashes
In the Berlin Páramo (departamenot of Santander), frailejones, endemic high mountain plants that grow at the rate of 1 cm per year of height were reduced to ashes And a good part of the country is on alert, indicated the director of the National Meteorological Institute, IDEAM, Ghisliane Echeverry: “We have, as of our update, more than 900 municipalities threatened by forest fires, this is practically almost the entire country,” said the Friday.
By this Monday, the fires began to subside, reported the National Risk and Disaster Management Unit (UNGRD), which on Sunday reported five active conflagrations and made the state of national disaster official for 12 months.
Since last week, Colombia has been fighting several fires that affect forests, mountain ecosystems where the water is born and the hills surrounding Bogotá.
According to IDEAM, this situation is due to three factors, its director, Ghisliane Echeverry: “What is happening at this moment is that in addition to being a dry season, this effect is intensified by a background phenomenon that It's the El Niño phenomenon.; (This) is making this a much drier season than usual and we are also within the framework of a climate crisis.
“We have just closed the year 2023 as the hottest year in history and that is also, of course, affecting temperatures throughout the national territory,” he said.
And he added: “Municipalities such as Jerusalem (department of Cundinamarca) have reached 40.6 °C temperature. That is the highest temperature that this municipality has reached for the month of January. This may indicate that it would also be the hottest January is shaping uptaking into account that we have data from 30 years of temperature monitoring.”
State of calamity declared
President Gustavo Petro has declared a state of calamity to mobilize additional funds and has requested international help if the national firefighters reach the limit of their capacity.
In Bogota, air quality was affected by the fires with high levels of fine particles.
A Colombian National Army helicopter drops water to fight a forest fire. Photo: Xinhua
Paula Henao, chief of firefighters of the capital: “We have had affected sectors where we have recommended do not do outdoor sports, wear face masks“Classes have been suspended in some schools, but let's say that the air quality is not affected everywhere, it is affected in the areas where the fires have been occurring.”
According to IDEAM forecasts, the El Niño phenomenon that aggravates the heat in Colombia It could last until April.
Fires in Ecuador
Meanwhile, in Ecuador the fight against a fire that started on Thursday in the El Ángel ecological reserve, in the province of Carchi, in the north of the country, continued. The work is carried out on land because, due to its height, The place is inaccessible to helicopters, The Risk Management Secretariat reported on Sunday.
About 198 firefighters from about six locations, including Quito, participate in combat tasks.
The Ministry of Environment reported in X that dozens of specialists in “comprehensive” management of reserves are in the territory and the causes of the conflagration are already being investigated.
Jimmy Marcillo, zonal coordinator of the Risk Management Secretariat, said in X that the fire is expected to be controlled until Monday.
With information from Associated Press and RFI