(Milas) Turkish rescuers began evacuating hundreds of villagers by sea on Thursday when a massive fire approached dangerously near a thermal power station that stores thousands of tons of coal.
Posted on Aug 4, 2021 at 9:50 am Updated at 9:00 pm
Kadir DEMIR Agence France-Presse
When evacuation alarms sounded, residents in the port of Oren, not far from the town of Milas, near which the plant is located, piled up the meager things they were able to rescue from their homes aboard coast guard speedboats, according to local AFP journalists.
These unprecedented fires, which Turkey has faced for more than a week, are related to the extreme heat wave in southern Turkey, which experts say is related to global warming.
The local authorities assured that the hydrogen tanks used to cool the oil and coal-fired power plant had been emptied and filled with water as a precaution.
“But there is a risk that the fire will spread to the thousands of tons of coal it contains,” a regional official, Osman Gurun, feared the journalist.
Pictures uploaded by the Mayor of Milas, Muhammet Tokat, showed a violent fire on the doors of the plant.
“The facility is currently being fully evacuated,” tweeted Mr. Tokat.
The fire was brought under control for the first time on Wednesday, thanks to two depth bombers and helicopters dispatched from Spain, which dumped water on the wooded peaks and nearby residential areas. But in the afternoon the flames disappeared again.
“You beg and have been for days. The fire surrounded the facility, “the mayor of Milas tweeted during the day and demanded that a depth bomber be sent here urgently”.
More than 180 fires
Criticism of his management of these fires, which have already killed eight people, admitted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who gave a live television interview on Wednesday evening when the evacuation was announced, that the plant was “destroyed by fire threatened to become ”. .
More than 180 fires have devastated forests and farmland as well as inhabited areas on the Turkish Mediterranean coast since last Wednesday.
The fires also had a severe impact on tourist attractions, which recently resumed operations after months of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the European Union’s satellite surveillance service, the “radiant power” of the fires in Turkey has reached “unprecedented” intensity since 2003.
The opposition criticized President Erdogan for failing to maintain his water bomber fleet and for accepting international aid slowly.
For its part, the Turkish Audiovisual Council (RTUK in Turkish) has warned television broadcasters not to spread information about the fires which could “cause fear and concern” among the population.
Erdogan accused the opposition of wanting to gain political benefit from the situation, since neighboring countries such as Greece were also affected by the fires.
“Forest fires are an international threat, just like the COVID-19 pandemic,” he defended.
“Like everywhere else in the world, the forest fires have increased sharply in our country. There shouldn’t be a place for politics in this issue, ”he added.
In the early days of the fires, columnists in pro-government media accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an organization viewed as terrorist by Turkey and its Western allies.
But the authorities are now citing the extreme heat wave that continues to hit southern Turkey.
Climate change in countries like Turkey increases the frequency and intensity of forest fires, experts say.
Turkish Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said temperatures in the Aegean city of Marmaris had hit an all-time high of 45.5 degrees this week.
“We are waging a war,” the minister told reporters. “We have to keep our morals and our motivation. I urge everyone to be patient, ”he added.