Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon surges sharply in April

Deep in the world's largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon, smoke is billowing from burnt-out tree trunks, and aerials show the charred rainforest floor.

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rose sharply in April, by an overwhelming 64%, according to data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research.

As the coronavirus outbreak keeps many environmentalists out of the field, researcher Carlos Souza Junior explains the surge in destruction:

"When we consider the 10-year history of our data, we determined that April has the highest rate of forest loss in the region. It is an area of 529 square kilometers, the equivalent of the city of Porto Alegre."

In the first four months of the year Amazon deforestation was already up 55% from a year ago.

Scientists have again urgently called for the rainforest's preservation, which is vital to curb global warming, because of the vast amount of greenhouse gas that it absorbs.

It's also home to some 900,000 indigenous people who find themselves at even greater risk, with the coronavirus outbreak killing nearly 18,000 people across the country.

"People who deforest are invading the indigenous lands and these people can carry COVID-19 to the regions, putting local and indigenous populations at risk."

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro launched military operations last week to protect the rainforest.

But even then, environmentalists largely blame destruction of the Amazon on his right-wing policies, which they say emboldens illegal loggers, miners and ranchers.