A thermal power plant in southern Turkey was evacuated on Wednesday as flames from forest fires approached.
Images posted online by Milas Mayor Muhammet Tokat showed the fire at the plant’s doors.
Local authorities had previously said that the hydrogen tanks used to cool the plant, which runs on oil and coal, had been emptied and filled with water as a precaution.
The fire was initially controlled earlier that day by two water-bombing planes and helicopters, which dumped water on nearby forested peaks and residential areas. But the flames returned in the afternoon.
“We have been pleading and warning you for days” about the fire surrounding the plant, Tokat tweeted during the day, calling “for a water bomber plane to be dispatched urgently.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has come under strong criticism for the government’s handling of forest fires, warned in a television interview late Wednesday that the plant “was at risk of being destroyed by fire. “.
‘There is no place for politics’
More than 180 fires have devastated forests and farmland, as well as populated areas on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast since last Wednesday.
The fires have also severely affected tourist sites that had only recently been able to resume operations after months of restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the European Union satellite surveillance service, the “radiative power” of the fires in Turkey has reached an intensity “not seen” since 2003.
The opposition has criticized Erdogan for failing to maintain his fleet of water bombers and for being slow to accept international aid.
The Turkish Radio and Television Council (RTUK in Turkish) warned television stations against broadcasting information about the fires that could “cause fear and anxiety” among the population.
Erdogan, meanwhile, has accused the opposition of trying to profit politically from the situation, while neighboring countries like Greece are also affected by the fires.
“Wildfires are an international threat just like the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said Wednesday night.
“As throughout the world, there has been a sharp increase in forest fires in our country. There should be no room for politics on this issue,” he added.
‘We are waging a war’
In the early days of the fires, pro-government media columnists had accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an organization considered terrorist by Turkey and its Western allies, of being responsible.
But authorities now cite the extreme heat wave that continues to hit southern Turkey.
According to experts, climate change in countries like Turkey is increasing the frequency and intensity of forest fires.
Turkey’s Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said temperatures in the Aegean city of Marmaris had reached an all-time high of 45.5 degrees this week.
“We are waging a war,” the minister told reporters. “We have to keep morale and motivation high. I urge everyone to be patient.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism