- MEXICO CITY (REUTERS) - Raging forest fires in Mexico have reached catastrophic
proportions, ravaging virgin tropical jungles and endangering the lives
of firefighters, top U.S. officials said Friday.
- Only the onset of rains will fully extinguish
the flames, they said.
- Even as Mexican and U.S. officials cooperate,
the traditional "slash and burn" farming method has set off new
- "This disaster in Mexico has to
be the most serious of its kind in the world, including Indonesia, and
the most difficult to fight," U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) chief Brian Atwood said at a breakfast with foreign reporters.
- Only long overdue rains can snuff out
the worst fires, and initial sprinkles from the rainy season in recent
days have yet to make a dent in the most serious blazes, Atwood said.
- Some 3,000 firefighters are tackling
the flames, and about 60 have died in the effort this year.
- While tropical forests and jungles are
usually too humid to burn, a drought has left them vulnerable to fire.
To make matters worse, wildfires have produced huge quantities of smoke,
foiling firefighting efforts by blocking views and access to the blazes.
- The U.S. officials lauded Mexican efforts
to fight the forest fires across the country.
- "They're doing an outstanding job
fighting this thing," Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said. "The
Mexican authorities in my judgment have dealt with this as well as we would
have done it."
- The United States has sent $8 million
of aid to Mexico since mid-May after fires reached crisis proportions,
sending smoke as far north as Chicago and as far east as Miami.
- On Thursday, smoke wafting north from
Mexico sent a black blanket over Texas, once again prompting a health warning
advising residents to stay indoors.