16 March 1998
Farmers blamed for Amazon blaze
FIRES which burned out of control and destroyed a swathe of highland savannah near the Venezuelan border have been blamed on subsistence farmers in the Brazilian state of Roraima.
Some 890,000ha (2.2 million acres) of farmland have been destroyed and a severe drought has killed about 20,000 cattle.
Environmental officials said the fires were caused by the drought and the slash-and-burn techniques of poor farmers who set fire to their plots to fertilise the thin soil with ash.
Officials appealed for more men and water-dumping helicopters as the flames began to eat into remote rainforest areas that are normally too wet to burn.
- The Times 16/03/98 page 13