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Bogota closes dozens of parks as fires rage in Colombia

Bogota closes dozens of parks as fires rage in Colombia
27 Jan 2024 23:50

BOGOTA (AFP)


Colombian capital Bogota has closed some 40 parks and hiking trails due to heavy smoke from wildfires raging in the area, the mayor's office announced Saturday.

Following an air-quality alert, the parks will remain closed through the weekend, the office said on X, the former Twitter.
A mountain range bordering the city of 8 million to the east has seen at least four wildfires break out since Monday. Most are now under control, but at least one reached within a few hundred meters (yards) of the popular El Paraiso neighborhood.

Amid hot, dry conditions linked to the weather phenomenon El Nino, fires have devastated more than 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres) across Colombia over the past three months, the authorities say.

As the country suffers through record heat, the Environment Ministry says at least 20 fires are still active, affecting forests, farmland and the mountain ecosystems that provide water to lower altitudes.

With thick smoke degrading air quality in Bogota, the authorities are urging residents -- who enjoy hiking and biking on weekends -- to stay inside as much as possible and wear masks if they must go out.

The office of Mayor Carlos Fernando Galan said he was studying whether he might have to issue mandatory restrictions on citizens' movements.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro declared a natural disaster on Wednesday, allocating funds to address the emergency, and asked UN and European Union member nations for help.

This month could be the hottest in Colombia in 30 years, and February is expected to see even higher temperatures, according to the country's Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies.

Rain is not expected before March.

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