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Brazil Army Deployed To Fight Amazon Fires After International Outcry

Brazilian troops backed by military aircraft are preparing to deploy in the Amazon to fight fires that have swept the region and prompted anti-government protests as well as an international outcry.

About 44,000 troops will be available for "unprecedented" operations to put out the fires, and forces are heading to four Brazilian states that asked for federal help to contain the blazes, defence minister Fernando Azevedo said on Saturday.

The states are Roraima, Rondonia, Tocantins and Para.

The military's first mission will be the deployment of 700 troops to the area around Porto Velho, capital of Rondonia, Azevedo said.

He added that the military will use two C-130 Hercules aircraft capable of dumping up to 12,000 litres of water on fires.

Aerial picture showing smoke from a two-kilometre-long stretch of fire billowing from the Amazon rainforest about 65 km from Porto Velho, in the state of Rondonia, in northern Brazil, on August 23, 2019. Photo: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images.

An Associated Press journalist flying over the Porto Velho region Saturday morning reported hazy conditions and low visibility.

On Friday, the reporter saw many already deforested areas that were burned, apparently by people clearing farmland, as well as a large column of smoke billowing from one fire.

READ MORE: 'Day Turned Into Night': The Amazon Rainforest Is Burning At Record Rates

The Brazilian military operations came after widespread criticism of President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the crisis.

On Friday, the president authorised the armed forces to get involved in putting out the fires, saying he is committed to protecting the Amazon region.

"It shows the concern of Bolsonaro's government about this issue," Azevedo said. "It was a very fast response."

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro . Photo: AAP

Bolsonaro has previously described rainforest protections as an obstacle to Brazil's economic development, sparring with critics who say the Amazon absorbs vast amounts of greenhouse gasses and is crucial for efforts to contain climate change.

The Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries who believe Bolsonaro has neglected commitments to protect biodiversity.

READ MORE: Planet In Jeopardy: International Row Erupts As The Amazon Burns To The Ground

Protesters gathered outside Brazilian diplomatic missions in European and Latin American cities on Friday, and demonstrators also marched in Brazil.

The dispute spilled into the economic arena when French leader Emmanuel Macron threatened to block a European Union trade deal with Brazil and several other South American countries.

Activists demonstrate during a protest against the government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the fires in the Amazon rainforest, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on August 23, 2019. Photo: MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP/Getty Images.

He wants G7 leaders meeting at a summit in France this weekend to discuss the Amazon crisis.

"First we need to help Brazil and other countries put out these fires," Macron said on Saturday.

READ MORE: As Amazon Fires Rage, Brazil Concerned About Its Image

The goal is to "preserve this forest that we all need because it is a treasure of our biodiversity and our climate thanks to the oxygen that it emits and thanks to the carbon it absorbs", he said.

Bolivia and Paraguay have also struggled to contain fires that swept through woods and fields, in many cases set to clear land for farming.

A US-based aircraft, the B747-400 SuperTanker, is flying over devastated areas in Bolivia to help put out the fires and protect forests.

Fires are common in Brazil in the annual dry season, but they are much more widespread this year.

Brazilian state experts reported nearly 77,000 wildfires across the country so far this year, up 85 per cent over the same period in 2018.