LONDON (AA) - Firefighters in Argentina continued Tuesday to battle fires in Patagonia that authorities said have destroyed nearly 4,000 hectares (988 acres) of forest.
Blazes for 20 days have continued to scorch the sparsely populated forests of the southern provinces of Chubut, Rio Negro and Neuquen.
More than 200 firefighters are struggling to control the fires in Nahuel Huapi National Park, the Andean Comarca and Alumine, according to national news agency, Telam.
Some of the fires are 300 kilometers (185 miles) apart.
To date, no casualties or evacuations have been reported but authorities are prepared for a potential evacuation and have advised residents to stay away.
In Alumine, located to the west of Neuquen Province and in the Cordillera region, fires have destroyed native pine and araucaria coniferous forests, according to satellite data, said the mayor's office.
On Tuesday, Secretary of Environment and Territorial Development of Neuquen Jorge Lara, announced that firefighters will be focused on battling the most active sources of the fires, as strong winds are expected in the area.
“We have to fight with everything today because tomorrow the wind increases and the direction is still not well known because it is changing," Lara told the Rio Negro newspaper.
More than 160 firefighters have been working in the Neuquen region to extinguish the fires which began Dec.19, according to Lara.
Earlier Tuesday, the federal government confirmed that the fires in Patagonia are associated with climate change, the InfoBae news website reported.
The Environment Ministry has said battling the blazes is challenging due to the terrain, the distance between fires and weather conditions -- such as the wind, high temperatures and dry vegetation during a drought that the region is currently fighting.
Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, Juan Cabandie, last week ordered aerial support to assist efforts on the ground.
The most difficult blaze to control is close to Bariloche, according to Deputy Environment Minister Sergio Federovisky.
"There is a scenario of a huge drought, which for two years has been affecting the entire country, and that in the case of Andean Patagonia. It is accentuated because there was practically no snow during the winter," said Federovisky.
Authorities announced they have established a "crisis committee" to coordinate efforts as they battle blazes in the affected provinces.
Last year, thousands of acres of forest were destroyed during blazes in Patagonia.
In addition to the fires in Patagonia, there are also blazes that have struck the provinces of Santa Fe, San Luis, Formosa and Misiones.