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Page last updated at 00:53 GMT, Sunday, 20 April 2008 01:53 UK

Two arrested over Argentine fires

A man covers his mouth in Buenos Aires - 19/4/2008
Many Buenos Aires residents have complained of breathing problems

The Argentine authorities have arrested two farmers accused of starting fires raging near Buenos Aires, which have covered the capital in dense smoke.

Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo said a third farmer was being sought.

Police have seized a boat containing combustible material thought to have been used to start the fires, he added.

The government says the fires, which have caused massive disruption for several days, were started by farmers clearing land for grazing.

The farmers have responded angrily, saying the government is blaming them for political reasons.

They say the charge is designed to distract attention from a row over tax rises on farm exports.

Earlier this month, farmers suspended a strike which had led to shortages but gave the government until the end of the month to address their concerns.

'Disaster movie'

No details have been given about the arrested men.

Meanwhile firefighters are still battling hundreds of fires.

Forecasters say that millions of Argentines will have to endure the smoke at least until Tuesday, when strong winds that will blow it away are forecast.

Hospitals are packed with people complaining about breathing problems.

The domestic airport and some major roads have been closed. Several people have died in accidents caused by poor visibility.

Residents have been told to stay at home.

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Buenos Aires says many of those that do venture out are walking the dense muggy streets of Buenos Aires wearing surgical masks in what look like scenes from a disaster movie.


SEE ALSO
Smoke worsens over Buenos Aires
18 Apr 08 |  Americas
Argentine fires blamed on farmers
18 Apr 08 |  Americas
Argentine farmers suspend protest
02 Apr 08 |  Americas
Fernandez slams Argentine farmers
02 Apr 08 |  Americas
Country profile: Argentina
12 Dec 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Argentina
01 Mar 08 |  Country profiles

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