Thousands of wildfires are ravaging the Amazon rainforest, burning the “lungs of the planet” at a rapid pace and causing smoke plumes to spread millions of square kilometres over South America.

Since last week, over 9,500 wildfires have been sparked in Brazil, primarily in the Amazon basin, a greenspace responsible for producing vast amounts of oxygen and widely seen by experts as crucial in efforts to contain climate change.

NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have shared startling images of blazes from space, showing smoke plumes blowing across Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Smoke from the fires reached as far as the city of Sao Paulo, located more than 3,000 kilometres away from the Amazon region.

NOAA satellites even captured the fires burning from 35,888 kilometres in space.

Wildfires are rare in the Amazon, thanks to its wet weather. But Brazil is currently in the height of its dry season, which typically lasts from July through to November.

But 2019 has already broken records for Brazil, with state experts reporting a record of nearly 77,000 wildfires across the country so far this year, up 85 per cent over the same period in 2018.

That accounts for the highest number of fires since the country began keeping track in 2013.

Global Forest Watch, established by the World Resources Institute to monitor the world’s forest and track forest fires, reported more than 151,824 fire alerts between Aug. 13 and Aug. 21.

Data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research estimates that more than one and a half soccer fields worth of rainforest are being destroyed every minute of every day.

Under mounting international pressure, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday he will send the military to help battle the massive blazes.