Colombia on red alert, as fires sweep across the country
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Colombia on red alert, as fires sweep across the country

Around 80 percent of Colombian territory is at risk of fire, placing 25 of the country’s departments on red alert.

The El Niño weather phenomenon is to blame for high temperatures and drought sweeping across the country, according to a NASA report in daily El Espectador.

According to Colombia’s National Risk and Disaster Management Unit (UNGRD) some 4,431 forest fires were reported across the country during 2015, representing 110,300 hectares of land consumed by fires – that’s the total metropolitan area of Colombia’s second city Medellín.

The department of Cundinamarca was the most affected, with 102 municipalities damaged by 877 reported incidents. The Valle del Cauca follows with 511 emergencies reported this year.

In December alone, 132 fires were reported across Colombia, according to UNGRD, of which 98 percent were started due to human intervention.

Low river levels are also a cause for concern.

“The Magdalena (river) is at levels which we haven’t seen since 1973, the channel is at 45 centimeters when it should be around 134 centimeters,” figures released from President Juan Manuel Santos reported.

“The next few days are going to be very complicated and the (river’s) navigability could become complicated. Beyond economic resources, the topic is what new mandates can be put in place to activate alarms early.” Environment Minister Gabriel Vallejo commented.

Colombia is not the only country to have been hard hit by El Niño, flooding and drought has swept across the South American continent.

See also:

Will Peru’s efforts help mitigate effects of ‘Godzilla’ El Niño