Thousands evacuated as firefighters tackle blazes in southwest Turkey


ISTANBUL, July 14 (Reuters) – Thousands of people were evacuated due to a wildfire in Turkey’s southwestern Datca peninsula, as firefighters battled on Thursday to contain the blazes fanned by strong winds that spread to residential areas overnight.

Forestry Minister Vahit Kirisci said preliminary investigations showed the fire broke out at an electrical transformer around midday on Wednesday.

“What makes our job a little more difficult is the wind effect, the direction and intensity of which are unpredictable,” he said early on Thursday.

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Turkey’s Disaster Management Authority (AFAD) said some 450 houses and 3,530 people were evacuated as fires reached residential areas in the sparsely populated parts of the peninsula.

Footage from Wednesday showed smoke billowing from the woodlands as helicopters doused water on the blazes while the flames spread. It also showed the garden of a house engulfed in smoke, with trees in the yard catching fire.

The Mugla province mayor’s office said 17 houses and 728 hectares of land were affected by the fire. It shared data that showed winds in the region had eased significantly on Thursday morning.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 19 people had been affected by the fire and nine of them were still being treated as of Thursday morning.

Authorities said 10 planes and 20 helicopters, including one that can operate at night, were involved in the efforts to douse the flames.

Countries including France and Portugal – suffering from a second heatwave in as many months – have been hit by a series of wildfires over the last few weeks. Scientists say human-induced climate change is making heatwaves more likely and more severe.

The blazes in southwestern Turkey conjured memories of last year’s summer fires that ravaged 140,000 hectares (345,950 acres) of countryside, the worst on record.

Another fire that broke out in the Aegean resort town of Cesme was contained on Thursday morning, the forestry authority said.

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Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Yesim Dikmen; Editing by Ece Toksabay and Alex Richardson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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