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Runaway Balloons Burn Brazil's Forest.

A local festival has inadvertently destroyed thousands of trees in Brazil's threatened rainforests.

Runaway hot-air balloons crashed in forested areas, lighting fires that burned 88 acres of Atlantic rainforest in Rio de Janeiro, according to an Environmental News Network report. So far, firefighters have battled 16 fires, including several in Tijuca Forest National Park, an 8,250-acre urban park.

"This is the largest single loss of rainforest we have seen in the last 20 years," Maj. Fabio Meirelles, deputy commander of Rio's Rainforest Firefighting Group, told reporters.

Although illegal, Brazilians traditionally launch homemade, unmanned balloons for the June feast days of Catholic saints Anthony, John, and Peter. The balloons often carry fireworks, banging lanterns, and other flammable material.

About 250 acres of Atlantic rainforest perish each year, according to the city of Rio. With only an estimated 8 percent of the original forest left, environmental activists predict the biologically diverse forests could disappear in 40 years.
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Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:3BRAZ
Date:Sep 22, 2000
Words:156
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