The fight of the mobilized firefighters continues in Turkey. The fires that have been raging for a week were approaching a thermal power plant in Milas, in the south of the country on Tuesday, so thousands of people continue to be evacuated in the face of the progression of fires that have killed eight people.
“If we cannot stop the fire by an aerial intervention (…), it will move towards the thermal power station. The situation is very serious, ”the mayor of Milas (south) Muhammet Tokat was alarmed on Monday evening in a video he shared on Twitter.
Worst fires in a decade
Tuesday morning, the fire was still not controlled and exceeded, according to the mayor of Milas, “the critical point”. Turkey has suffered the worst fires in at least a decade, devastating forests and farmland, as well as inhabited areas on the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts. An AFP team in the Aegean city 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.
Lack of water bombers
Of the 145 fires that broke out in one week across the country, nine are still active. The European Union sent three water bomber planes, two from Spain and one from Croatia, to help Turkey fight the fires. Prior to the announcement of EU aid, Turkey had borrowed planes from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Iran.
But the country has felt the consequences of the gradual disappearance of its own fleet of Canadairs in recent years. The main opposition party, the CHP (Republican People’s Party, Social Democrat), accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of having dismantled the infrastructure of a semi-public organization which in the past held bombers of water and who was in charge of firefighting.
“I am going to cry with rage”, tweeted Tuesday Muhammet Tokat who had asked during his numerous televised interventions that a bomber plane be directed towards Milas, in vain. Elected from the CHP, the mayor of the city is part of a growing number of critical voices of Recep Tayyip Erdogan because of his management of the crisis.
The president also angered many Turks on social media for throwing tea bags at confused residents as he visited the affected town of Marmaris with a heavy police escort last weekend. In the face of growing voices on social media criticizing the government for insufficient intervention, Turkish presidency communications chief Fahrettin Altun warned against “fake news” that was designed to give the impression of a “weak” Turkey .
Defense and interior ministers said they are also mobilizing forces to help the more than 5,000 firefighters battling the disasters. Police water cannons, normally used to disperse protests, were also deployed in the fire zones, Turkish police said.