Over 3,000 hectares of land have been destroyed so far by an ongoing wildfire in the foothills of Colombia’s northern Sierra Nevada mountains, reported local media.
The fire, which began Saturday, has spread rapidly through the Caribbean mountains, the highest coastal range in the world, destroying coffee, banana and palm crops throughout one of Colombia’s most bio-diverse regions.
Colombia’s Air Force and Coast Guard have been called into action alongside local fire fighters in attempt to control the blaze.
Due to the region’s difficult terrain, fire fighters have had to rely primarily on air support to combat the fire. Control efforts have been further complicated by acute regional water shortages brought on by the same prolonged regional drought responsible for the fire.
Four states along Colombia’s Caribbean coast were placed on high “red” alert Friday, just before the start of the fire.
Many local rivers have reached “critical” levels because of the drought, and several municipalities in the region have taken emergency measures due to the lack of water.
Authorities report that the the Air Force was able to install an artificial on-site pool, which has allowed emergency crews to refill their tankers.
The government has also requested the help of the US-based Drummond Mining Company, which maintains a strong presence in the region and has provided logistical support, water tankers and employees to fill the the artificial pool.
In an interview with newspaper El Pais, the commander of a local fire station claimed that the fire was man made, most likely resulting from a controlled burn that got out of hand.
— Albeis J. Fuentes P. (@albeisjfp) March 29, 2014
— Albeis J. Fuentes P. (@albeisjfp) March 30, 2014
Albeis J. Fuentes, the ombudsman of the Magdalena state, took to Twitter to denounce the authorities’ slow reaction time and to solicit support from the region’s governor. “We urge you to take immediate action in order to address and mitigate the Sierra fires,” said Fuentes.