19 April 2008


Wake up and smell the smoke, if you haven't! I've noticed this blog has many occasional (or one-time) readers. So, for the ones just tuning in, this is about the fires covering the Argentine littoral (and its capital) with smoke. Here's a few pictures, all taken from the coast of Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina, today around noon. We're 300 km north from Buenos Aires (whose name has never seemed so much of a joke as nowadays, he he...). A seamless cloud of gray smoke covers the eastern horizon. The islands of the Paraná delta are on fire, because the owners of the fields have once again employed the ancient method of clearing scrubland with fire.

The Rosario–Victoria Bridge has been re-opened to traffic after a couple of days of being partially or totally shut down. You can barely see it, though, from this point located only 7 km away. Remember this is noon, and the picture has been enhanced for contrast.

Una humadera teyible (by pablodf)

You can't go from the south of Santa Fe to Entre Ríos if you can't use the bridge — you have to take a huge detour up to Santa Fe City and cross the river though the Subfluvial Tunnel.

In Rosario we've been enduring the smoke and the ashes for years, but it was only this time that the fires got completely out control and the smoke reached Buenos Aires, thus instantly turning this issue into a national emergency. The presidential minions quickly blamed the farmers (who seem to be guilty of everything that's wrong in the world today, from child hunger to environmental destruction) and Queen Cristina herself ruined her hair by flying over the affected area on a helicopter.

Navegando por el humo (by pablodf)

Not a word was heard from the unanswered complaints of Rosario's municipal government over the years, or the complete lack of suitable responses by the Kirchnerist governors of Entre Ríos (both past and present) regarding the fires being intentionally started by farmers in their jurisdiction. They knew who they were, and although there was a judicial ruling protecting their irresponsible actions, those things can and should be fought in court. Anyone with a minimum of foresight could see this coming.

Firefighters are now trying to contain (not extinguish) the many fires throughout the delta's islands. It's impossible to do anything else. Planes cannot go there with all that smoke. The place is a tangled maze of wetlands and streams. I hear we're getting help from the federal government; up until recently there were only volunteer firefighters from Santa Fe and Entre Ríos, the former heavily outnumbering the latter, although (as I said and will keep on saying) the islands are in the jurisdiction of Entre Ríos and whatever happens there falls entirely under the responsibility of the government of Entre Ríos.

Here you have another picture, this time facing due north, so you can see the visual effect of the smoke. The sky is naturally colourless at this time of the day, but the horizon's gray is not natural. The old piers and the silos on the left are closest; the silos and the buildings around are former port facilities. They're not far away, and you can see they're already veiled by the smoke.

Humo sobre el Paraná (by pablodf)

A little more to the right you can see the silhouettes of four towers; they're the illumination towers of Rosario Central's Gigante de Arroyito stadium. On the center-right you have the Sorrento thermal power plant, and then a cargo boat anchored nearby. At that point the coast describes a curve, so what you see right of the boat is much farther away. On a clear day you can see that shore clearly, though, but these days the smoke is noticeable all the time, subtly when you look at buildings a block or two away, and as a thick gray cloud when your line of sight is clear, as in this case.

So far I don't know of people suffering any grave consequences from the smoke. Fortunately most of it is being blown southwest towards Buenos Aires, leaving us with a subtle cloud that runs all along the coastal area of the city, including downtown. It's not pretty, and sometimes it smells, but we can breathe.

In case you didn't like my pictures, here's one from a better perspective, by NASA. The tiny red circles are fires. Rosario is the grayish splotch to the right of the leftmost one (above the ra in Parana), beside the green mass of the delta.

1 comment:

  1. Here in the capital, the winds shifted last night and the smoke started to clear. This morning there’s blue sky and only a hint of smoke left in the air, but a fine coating of particulate matter is everywhere.

    Friday morning was probably the worst, when the visibility at Aeroparque was down to 50m (with no clouds or fog). In my neighborhood I could barely see to the end of the block, and the acrid nature of the smoke made breathing uncomfortable. I stayed inside, but the air quality was only slightly better indoors.

    Restaurants were still setting up tables outside on the sidewalk throughout (appropriately this is the smoking section for many of them). The patrons who smoked didn’t seem to notice.

    I was surprised at the government’s initial response - that there was no health hazard – after all it’s a natural phenomenon, and the smoke’s not toxic … explain that to the hundreds of people who were taken to hospital with allergy and asthma problems. Not to mention possible long term consequences – one could use the same argument about cigarette smoke.



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