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Colombia Declares State of Disaster Due to Wildfires, Requests International Assistance

Credits: Axios

Colombia declared a disaster on Thursday due to widespread wildfires, with President Gustavo Petro cautioning that the situation could deteriorate further.

He announced a “situation of disaster and calamity,” reallocating funds to address the crisis. Seeking international assistance, Petro noted positive responses from the United States, Chile, Peru, and Canada, which boast extensive experience in firefighting. Additionally, he sought collaboration from the United Nations and the European Union.

The fires stem from hot, arid conditions linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is expected to persist for several months. Petro emphasized that the “climate crisis” escalates, indicating a challenging phase ahead.

Colombia Wildfires (Credits: Reuters)

Temperatures have soared 5 to 10 degrees Celsius above average, with many areas reaching the mid to upper 30s Celsius (upper 90s to low 100s Fahrenheit), following months of above-average temperatures.

The National Disaster Risk Management Unit reported 25 active fires on Thursday, with 10 under control and 217 extinguished. Billowing smoke has engulfed parts of the country, prompting flight cancellations in Bogota.

El Dorado airport operated with restrictions due to reduced visibility from smoke and fog. The Civil Aviation Authority of Colombia estimated that 70% of the phenomenon was fog and 30% smoke.

At least 138 flights were affected, including 48 cancellations and 16 reroutes. Petro’s declaration underscores the severity of the situation, as Colombia faces a dual challenge of containing wildfires and mitigating the impacts of El Niño.

The government’s appeal for international aid reflects the scale of the crisis, highlighting the need for swift, coordinated action to address the environmental emergency and protect affected communities.

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