(CNN) — The Amazon biome recorded the largest number of fires in a single day on Monday since 2017, according to Ane Alencar, scientific director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute and coordinator of Mapbiomas, a collaborative network of organizations that monitors deforestation, fires and climate change in Brazil.
On Monday, 3,358 fires were registered, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) of Brazil, which monitors deforestation and fires in the country.
“This year, the rains in the Amazon lasted a little longer, which is why this concentration (of fires and clouds) occurred. We had low rates of fires in early August, and as of August 17 there was a concentration of fires,” Alencar said.
From August 1 to 22, a total of 19,765 fires were registered, a significant increase compared to July, which registered 5,373 fire sources, according to INPE.
The staggering amount of burning vegetation created a “soot cloud” over southern Amazonas state and southwestern Pará state, the areas hardest hit by the fires, even affecting the city of Manaus, capital of Amazonas state. , more than 600 kilometers from the epicenter of the fires, indicated INPE.
The increase in numbers may be related to deforestation practices and a longer rainy season, Alencar told CNN.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has suggested that the increase in fires was caused by natural events or by indigenous communities, he said in an interview with Globo TV on Monday.
Tasso Azevedo, coordinator of MapBiomas, disagreed with the president.
“Fires caused by natural events in the Amazon, a tropical forest, are a very rare event that can occur every 500 years. Practically all the fire that we have in the Amazon is anthropic (caused by man), and is usually associated with deforestation and clearing of grazing areas,” said Azvezado.
By Camilo Rocha and CNN’s Sahar Akbarzai