Forest fires rage in three of Bolivia's nine departments

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LA PAZ, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Forest fires are raging in three of Bolivia's nine departments, mostly sparked by field burning to prepare farmland for planting, Deputy Civil Defense Minister Juan Carlos Calvimontes said on Friday.

The fires have damaged thousands of hectares of forests, crops and pastures, with the departments of Beni (northeast), La Paz (west) and Santa Cruz (east) the hardest-hit, he told reporters.

"We will wait for the fires to pass to quantify the damage to crops, pastures and others," he said.

A day earlier, the head of Bolivia's Forest and Land Supervision and Social Control Authority, Luis Flores, called for harsher prison sentences of four to 10 years for those convicted of starting forest fires.

Currently the crime carries sentences of just two years in prison, though a recent law imposes penalties of three to eight years in prison when the fires affect protected areas.

Over 2 million hectares have been damaged in Bolivia by fire so far this year. More than 4 million hectares were damaged by fire in 2022, according to government data released in October. Enditem

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