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ARGENTINA | 27-01-2024 20:01

Firefighters battle 'out of control' blaze in Los Alerces National Park

Firefighters battling an "out of control" blaze in Los Alerces National Park, struggling to keep it from reaching Esquel and Trevelin.

Firefighters in Argentina were battling an "out of control" blaze in a national park in Patagonia on Saturday, struggling to keep it from reaching two nearby towns.

The fire in Los Alerces National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – has already charred about 600 hectares (1500 acres).

"The fire is out of control," said Mario Cardenas, head of the park's fire, communications and emergency department. 

Conditions are "unfavourable because we still have a lot of wind and high temperatures. This makes our work very difficult," he said.

Temperatures in Patagonia, a normally cold and windy region in Argentina's far south, have topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in the southern hemisphere summer, with two provinces declaring states of emergency due to fire risk until April.

Chubut Province rescue workers were trying to block flames from reaching the towns of Esquel and Trevelin, about 2,000 kilometres (1,242 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires.

Los Alerces Park features glacier-carved landscapes including rivers and lakes, and pristine forests of alerce trees, the second-longest living tree species in the world.

 

Heatwave

Several Patagonian cities have topped the ranking of the highest temperatures in the country in January, a scale usually dominated by the central and northern regions.

The phenomenon left the highest marks since records have been kept in Trelew, capital of Chubut, with 42.6 degrees Celsius, and 36.4° C in Bariloche (Río Negro), a winter tourist centre in the foothills of the Andes. The previous records in these cities were 42.2°C in 2017 and 35.4°C in 2019, respectively.

There were also monthly record highs in El Bolsón, in Río Negro, with 37.4°C against 36.9 in 1999; and Esquel, in Chubut, with 34.7°C (against 33.8 in 1979). 

"It has nothing to do with the El Niño phenomenon, which affects this region with an increase in precipitation, higher humidity in the lower layers and greater cloudiness, which moderates temperatures," explained meteorologist Matías Reinoso.

 

– AFP

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