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Colombia seeks international aid, declaring a wildfire disaster.

January 26, 2024

Colombia declared a disaster on Thursday due to raging wildfires across the country, with President Gustavo Petro warning of worsening conditions.

President Petro declared a "situation of disaster and calamity," redirecting funds previously allocated for other purposes to address the crisis.

The government is actively seeking international assistance, with responses from the United States, Chile, Peru, Canada, and other nations experienced in firefighting. Petro is also reaching out to the United Nations and the European Union for cooperation.

The wildfires are attributed to hot and dry conditions linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon. El Niño is expected to persist for the next few months before concluding during the Northern Hemisphere spring.

Petro cautioned that the situation is evolving into a "climate crisis" and will likely deteriorate further. "We are going toward an increasingly difficult stage," he emphasized.

Recent days and weeks have seen temperatures 5 to 10 degrees Celsius above normal across much of the country, reaching the mid to upper 30s Celsius. This heatwave follows a period of above-average temperatures in the region over the past months.

The National Disaster Risk Management Unit reported 25 active fires on Thursday, with ten under control and 217 extinguished. Billowing smoke has disrupted areas, causing flight cancellations in Bogota.

El Dorado airport faced restrictions on Thursday morning due to low visibility from a combination of smoke and fog. The Civil Aviation Authority of Colombia estimated the phenomenon as 70% fog and 30% smoke.

A total of 138 flights were impacted, including 48 cancellations and 16 rerouted to alternative airports, according to the authority's report.

Source: CNN
image: Newser, World Health Organization (WHO)