A forest fire approached a coal-fired power plant in southwest Turkey this evening, and wildfires raged near southern resorts for the seventh day as firefighting planes from Spain and Croatia joined the battle to put them out.
Officials said 11 fires were still burning due to high winds, temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius and low humidity. Plumes of black smoke rose from the hillsides and forests near the seaside resorts of Bodrum and Marmaris.
«The situation is very dangerous. The flames have reached the edge of the thermal power plant,» Mehmet Tokat, the mayor of Milas, east of the main resort in Bodrum, said on Twitter.
He shared a video taken from a ship at sea showing a fire burning on a hillside under the night sky, a few hundred meters from the illuminated Kemerkoy power station, and called for a night-vision plane or helicopter to be sent to the area.
Two firefighting aircraft from Spain and one from Croatia joined teams from Russia, Iran, Ukraine and Azerbaijan to fight the fires today, after Turkey requested European support.
Mayors of the southern resort cities of Bodrum and Antalya have called for more planes this week as fires rage near the coasts of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.
Television footage showed the evacuation of a village near Milas, with homes and buildings set ablaze.
Opposition parties have criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government for depleting firefighting resources over the years. Thousands have also taken to social media calling for Erdogan to step down, while others have criticized the lack of resources and what they describe as insufficient preparations.
«To say it frankly, Turkey is not run,» said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party. «The (presidential) palace government has rendered our state impotent.»
In response to criticism of the government’s rejection of some offers of international assistance, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey had evaluated several proposals, prioritizing offers of aircraft and helicopters.
He said some countries, including France and Greece, have pulled back on their offers due to their own needs. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had discussed the situation with Turkish officials, but was told that Turkey did not need help.
Turkish radio and television watchdog RTUK told broadcasters on Tuesday that negative coverage of the fires could encourage an «atmosphere of chaos», hurting public morale and firefighters. And the media warned of «the harshest penalties» if they did not adhere to the principles of RTUK.
The heat wave that started the fires came after months of exceptionally dry weather in southwestern Turkey, according to maps released by meteorological authorities.
Data from the European Forest Fire Information Service showed that there were three times as many fires as usual this year, while more than 136,000 hectares burned in Turkey was three times the area burned on average over a full year.
Eight people were killed in a total of 156 wildfires that broke out last week. There were no reports of more casualties today.
The government is investigating the cause of the fires, including possible arson. The Defense Ministry said authorities have arrested a person who tried to start a fire outside a military compound in the southwestern Denizli province.
Since last Wednesday, thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and some tourists have fled their hotels by boat or by road, although Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy said holidaymakers returned within hours.
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