Wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest have hit a record number this year. Brazil's space research center INPE informed that 72,843 fires have been detected between January and August, compared with 39,759 in 2018. The surge marks an 83 percent increase, which is the highest number of forest fires for any year since 2013.

Satellite images spotted over 9,500 new forest fires since Thursday alone. The fires were witnessed mostly in the Amazon basin, home to the world's largest tropical forest and seen as vital to slowing the pace of global warming.

With the fires raging for over three weeks now, concerns have grown over right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro's environmental policy as he faces criticism over rampant destruction of the Amazon.

The surge in forest fires has occurred since Bolsonaro took office in January. He had vowed to develop the Amazon region for farming and mining. The President, however, ignored international concern over increased deforestation. In fact, he brushed off the criticism, when asked about the spread of uncontrolled fire, saying it was the time of the year of the ”queimada” or burn, when farmers use fire to clear land, ABC News reported.

INPE, however, stated that the number of fires was not in line with those normally reported during the dry season. Last week, Bolsonaro sacked the director of INPE for showing an increase in deforestation in Brazil, saying they were inaccurate. The environmental activists consider the recent increase in deforestation as the trigger for the fires and blame the President for emboldening loggers, miners and farmers in the Amazon.

Meanwhile, Norway and Germany have halted tens of millions of dollars of Amazon protection subsidies to the Amazon Fund, accusing Brazil of turning its back on the fight against deforestation, according to Aljazeera.

Brazil Amazon Deforestation
An aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle recently cleared by loggers and farmers near the city of Para state, Brazil. Reuters