QUITO – The fires devastating Ecuador have now consumed more than 17,600 hectares (43,500 acres) of woodland, upland valleys and crops, and have left five people dead and 73 injured, according to the SNGR emergency management office.
The five deaths, including one of the firefighters, occurred in the provinces of Azuay, Bolivar, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi and Tungurahua, while most of the 73 injured were in Chimborazo and Pichincha.
In all there have been 3,069 forest fires since June 1, when a period of drought set in.
The flames have wiped out 17,484 hectares (43,204 acres) of woods and scrubland high in the Andes, as well as 142 hectares (351 acres) of crops, while another 31 hectares (77 acres) of crops were affected but not completely destroyed.
SNGR figures differ from those used by the Environment Ministry, which on Wednesday said that the scorched area measured some 9,000 hectares (22,200 acres), while the emergency management office spoke of almost 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres) laid waste.
A Hercules C-130 aircraft of the Brazilian air force with a team of 29 soldiers and capable of carrying 12,000 liters (3,200 gallons) of water arrived Thursday in Quito to help extinguish the flames.
The aircraft joined two helicopters (a Super Puma and a Cougar) provided by Venezuela and another (Black Hawk) from Colombia.
Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian armed forces have deployed 21 aircraft, both helicopters and planes, as well as 5,693 soldiers, trucks and other equipment.
The province with the most blazes is Pichincha, where Quito is located, with 2,458, followed by Imbabura with 209 and Cañar with 63, all located in the Andes region.
Rain on Friday in the Ecuadorian capital, where smoke from fires on the wooded slopes of the Pichincha volcano has been visible in recent days, provided some relief to those battling the flames.
The SNGR reported Friday two new wildfires in the Andean municipality of Cuenca, in the southern part of the country.
It also said that 90 percent of a fire has been controlled in the El Moran sector of Carchi, a northern province bordering on Colombia, where 293 people are trying to extinguish a blaze, including police, firefighters, personnel from several ministries and municipalities, as well as local residents.