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Turkey wildfires continue to rage as thermal power plant 'threatened'

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By Euronews with AFP, AP
Cows shelter close to an advancing fire that rages Cokertme village, near Bodrum, Turkey, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021
Cows shelter close to an advancing fire that rages Cokertme village, near Bodrum, Turkey, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021   -   Copyright  Credit: AP
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The forest fires raging in Turkey were approaching a thermal power plant at Milas on Tuesday, a local official claimed

Milas mayor Muhammet Tokat said the out-of-control fire had passed a critical point and was heading towards the power plant.

It comes amid the country's worst blazes in at least a decade. Eight people have been killed and thousands evacuated.

The wildfires have devastated forests and farmland as well as inhabited areas on the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts.

An AFP team in the Aegean town of Marmaris saw farmers pulling their animals out of burning barns and moving them to a beach to bring them to safety.

Frightened tourists and villagers were evacuated by boat as high winds and heat spread the flames.

Temperatures above 40 degrees in several cities in Turkey also caused a record increase in electricity consumption, leading to blackouts on Monday in major cities like Ankara and Istanbul.

The European Union has sent three firefighting planes to the country in a bid to help. Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Iran have also sent water bombers to Turkey.

The fires began last Wednesday and now threaten the cities of Antalya, Bodrum and Marmaris, where hundreds of tourists and residents were evacuated from their hotels and homes on Sunday.

More than 1,100 people were evacuated by boat, Bodrum Mayor Ahmet Aras said on Sunday, as roads were not usable.

Eight people have been killed by the fires and a total of 10,000 have been evacuated in Mugla province alone.

In all, 129 fires that broke out in over 30 provinces have been extinguished. More than 4,000 firefighters have been deployed on the grounds.

"We are experiencing days with temperatures above 40°C and very strong winds," Turkish Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli told a news conference in Milas, one of the towns affected by the fires, on Monday.

Human carelessness and climate change

Turkey is suffering the worst fires in at least a decade, according to official data, with nearly 95,000 hectares burned so far in 2021, compared with an average of 13,516 hectares at this stage of the year between 2008 and 2020.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government have been widely criticised since it emerged that the country does not have any water-bombing aircraft needed to control fires in mountainous areas.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has also criticised the Turkish President for dismantling the infrastructure of a semi-public organisation, which in the past owned water bombers and was in charge of fire fighting.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Monday that the authorities are investigating the cause of the fires, including human “carelessness” and possible sabotage by outlawed Kurdish militants. He said one person was detained over allegations that he may have been paid by the group to start a fire.

"We will inform public opinion when the investigation is completed," Soylu said.

Experts, however, mostly point to climate change as being behind the fires, along with accidents caused by people.

The scorching heat is also affecting neighbour Greece. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday that the country is "facing the worst heatwave since 1987".

Temperatures reached 45°C in inland areas of Greece, putting the electricity network under great strain.