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story.lead_photo.caption An alligator remains idling at the Encontro das Aguas park at the Pantanal wetlands near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the part as the number of fires at the world's biggest tropical wetlands has more than doubled in the first half of 2020, according to data released by a state institute. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Wildfires burning

Brazil wetlands

The Associated Press

BRASILIA, Brazil -- A vast swath of a vital wetlands is burning in Brazil, sweeping across several national parks and obscuring the sun behind dense smoke.

Preliminary figures from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, based on satellite images, indicate that nearly 5,800 square miles have burned in the Pantanal region since the start of August -- an expanse comparable to the area consumed by the historic blazes now afflicting California. It's also well beyond the previous fire season record from 2005.

Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, whose satellites monitor the fires, said the number of Pantanal fires in the first 12 days of September was nearly triple the figure for the same period last year. From January through August, the number of fires more than tripled, topping 10,000.

Fernando Tortato, who has been working and living near the Encontro Das Aguas reserve since 2008, said he's never seen the fires as bad as this year.

"It is an immense area that has been burned and consumed by the fire. And we still have another two, three or four weeks without rain" ahead, he said.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to view » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp-dmx9BxRA]

Firefighters, troops and volunteers have been scrambling to find and rescue jaguars and other animals before they are overtaken by the flames, which have been exacerbated by the worst drought in 47 years, strong winds and temperatures exceeding 104 degrees.

While illegal logging, mining and farming operations have been blamed for most of the fires in the Amazon region to the north, a spokesman for Mato Grosso state's firefighters, Lt. Col. Sheila Sebalhos, said one of the causes of this year's Pantanal fires is the practice of burning roots to smoke wild bees from their hives to extract honey.

The Pantanal holds thousands of plant and animal species, including 159 mammals, and it abounds with jaguars, according to the World Wildlife Fund. During the rainy season, rivers overflow their banks and flood the land, making most of it accessible only by boat and plane. In the dry season, wildlife enthusiasts flock to see the normally furtive jaguars lounging on riverbanks, along with macaws, caimans and capybaras.

Egyptian police

held in jail death

The Associated Press

CAIRO -- Egyptian prosecutors ordered four policemen detained pending an investigation into the death of a young man in detention, two judicial officials said Sunday.

Prosecutors also ordered the release of another officer on bail of $310 in the case that touched off a rare burst of street protests last week, the officials said. The four policemen are to be held in custody initially for four days.

The 26-year-old man was arrested this month after clashes stemming from a financial dispute in Cairo's Moneib district, the Interior Ministry said.

The man was pronounced dead of heart failure at a hospital a day after his arrest, according to the ministry that oversees police. The ministry claimed the man had been wounded in the clashes.

Residents said the young man, identified by the nickname Islam el-Australy, clashed with police after they tried to dismantle his street stall.

The family of the man has accused the police of killing him, according to prosecutors who ordered forensic experts to determine the cause of death after they found abrasions on his body.

The judicial officials said closed-circuit video footage showed the man entered the police station alive and was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital the next day. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

After the young man's death, dozens of people protested outside the local police station until security forces dispersed them and sealed off the area. The protest was a rare outburst of public anger in Egypt, which has banned unauthorized protests since 2013 as part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

A boat travels at the Encontro das Aguas park as fire consumes an area at the Pantanal wetlands near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the state park, an eco-tourism destination known for its population of jaguars. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
A boat travels at the Encontro das Aguas park as fire consumes an area at the Pantanal wetlands near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the state park, an eco-tourism destination known for its population of jaguars. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
An recently burned area at the Encontro das Aguas park at the Pantanal wetlands near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the state park, an eco-tourism destination known for its population of jaguars. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
An recently burned area at the Encontro das Aguas park at the Pantanal wetlands near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the state park, an eco-tourism destination known for its population of jaguars. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
A jaguar limps along the banks of the Piqueri river in the Encontro das Aguas Park near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the state park, an eco-tourism destination known for its population of jaguars. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
A jaguar limps along the banks of the Piqueri river in the Encontro das Aguas Park near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the state park, an eco-tourism destination known for its population of jaguars. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Vultures stand next to the carcass of a alligator on the banks of the Cuiaba river at the Encontro das Aguas Park in the Pantanal wetlands near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the state park, an eco-tourism destination that is home to thousands of plant and animal species. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Vultures stand next to the carcass of a alligator on the banks of the Cuiaba river at the Encontro das Aguas Park in the Pantanal wetlands near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the state park, an eco-tourism destination that is home to thousands of plant and animal species. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
An otter eats a fish at the Encontro das Aguas park at the Pantanal wetlands near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the part as the number of fires at the world's biggest tropical wetlands has more than doubled in the first half of 2020, according to data released by a state institute. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
An otter eats a fish at the Encontro das Aguas park at the Pantanal wetlands near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the part as the number of fires at the world's biggest tropical wetlands has more than doubled in the first half of 2020, according to data released by a state institute. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
An recently burned area at the Encontro das Aguas park at the Pantanal wetlands near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the park as the number of fires at the world's biggest tropical wetlands has more than doubled in the first half of 2020, according to data released by a state institute. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
An recently burned area at the Encontro das Aguas park at the Pantanal wetlands near Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Wildfire has infiltrated the park as the number of fires at the world's biggest tropical wetlands has more than doubled in the first half of 2020, according to data released by a state institute. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
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