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Wednesday, April 1, 1998 Published at 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK



World: Americas

Joy as rain falls on Brazil's burning forests
image: [ The first drops of rain were greeted with jubilation ]
The first drops of rain were greeted with jubilation

Government officials in northern Brazil say heavy rain has put out some of the forest fires which have been devastating parts of the Amazon over the past two months.


Dancing in the rain: report from BBC World.
It is the first time since September that the region of Roraima has received a sustained downpour and it has been greeted with huge relief.

In the state capital of Boa Vista, which earlier this week was shrouded in smoke, people danced in the rain.


[ image: Rainfall was so heavy cars were forced to drive through deep puddles]
Rainfall was so heavy cars were forced to drive through deep puddles
The change in the weather came as United Nations disaster experts arrived in the area to assess what kind of international help was needed to fight the fires.

Officials flew over an area inside the massive rain forest reservation of the Yanomami Indians and reported that fires there had been completely put out by the rain.


[ image: The reservation where the Yanomami Indians live have been severely hit by the forest fires]
The reservation where the Yanomami Indians live have been severely hit by the forest fires
The situation had also improved in other areas badly hit by fires, including the Apiau and Caracarai farming districts, where a total of 1,700 firefighters are deployed.

But other affected areas, like the Pacaraima region, on the Venezuelan border, remain dry.

Newly available satellite photos indicate that approximately 13,000 miles or about 15% of the state has been devastated as a result of the fires.

Carlos Pereira Monteiro, the leader of the United Nations task force called the incident "an environmental disaster without precedent on this planet".

El Niño could be to blame

The fires were started by the traditional farming techniques of local farmers who burnt off stubble to clear their land.


[ image: There has been criticism that the authorities did not act quickly enough to stem the fires]
There has been criticism that the authorities did not act quickly enough to stem the fires
They blazed out of control because of a severe drought, which is being blamed on the El Niño weather phenomenon.

Most of the savannah grasslands around the rainforest have now been burnt, destroying the small farms of thousands of families and killing cattle.

Shamans claim credit

The rain downfall came just hours after two Indian shamans performed an ancient ritual to bring the storm clouds.

Two Kaiapo tribesmen from the Xingu reservation in Mato Grosso state travelled to Boa Vista.

Flown in by the government's Indian Foundation, they performed an ancient rain ritual on a dried up river, using creepers and other plants.

It appears to have worked because a forecaster with the National Weather Institute in Brasilia has predicted there is more rain on the way for Roraima.


 





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