(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 11, 2020 smoke rises from an illegal fire in Amazon rainforest reserve, north of Sinop in Mato Grosso state, Brazil. – Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached nearly 360 km2 in the first three weeks of the year, breaking the record for a month of January, according to official data published on February 2, 2022, seen as a worrying sign for the whole of 2022. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA / AFP)

BOGOTA — Forest fires that have raged for days in Colombia’s Amazon on Saturday put its Andean capital, Bogota, on an environmental alert as bad air quality spanned an area the size of greater Paris, authorities said.

Wind carried smoke from several fires blamed on armed groups some 350 kilometers (220 miles) to the northwest, all the way to the Colombian capital.

Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez said on Twitter that more than half of the capital’s air quality monitoring stations have been off the charts for the past 48 hours.

“That is why, as an environmental protection measure” the city has issued an environmental alert, she wrote.

Lopez urged her city’s eight million people to refrain from physical activities outdoors in the coming days.

Authorities have blamed the fires on former rebels who did not accept the 2016 peace deal with the government, saying that they burn trees to raise cattle on the land.

In the central province of Guaviare, governor Haydeer Palacio, declared a “red alert” due to forest fires that have engulfed 10,000 hectares of land, an area similar to the total area of the French capital.

January of this year was the hottest month in the Colombian Amazon in a decade, also leading to an increase in forest fires in the southeastern region and very likely impacting air quality in the capital, according to an Environment Ministry report seen by AFP Friday.

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