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In Turkey, violent fires threaten thermal power plant

The fight of the mobilized firefighters continues in Turkey. The fires that have been burning for a week approached a thermal power plant in Milas, in the south of the country this Tuesday, so that thousands of people continue to be evacuated due to the progression of fires that have left eight dead.

“If we cannot stop the fire by means of an aerial intervention (…), it will move towards the thermal power plant. The situation is very serious ”, the mayor of Milas (south), Muhammet Tokat, was alarmed on Monday night in a video he shared on Twitter.

On Tuesday morning, the fire was not yet under control and passed, 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 drag their animals out of burning barns and onto a beach for safety.

Tourists and frightened 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 spike in electricity consumption, prompting blackouts on Monday in major cities such as Ankara and Istanbul.

Of the 145 fires that broke out in a week across the country, nine are still active. The European Union sent three water bombers, two from Spain and one from Croatia, to help Turkey fight the fires. Before the announcement of the 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 Canadair fleet in recent years. The main opposition party, the CHP (Republican People’s Party, Social Democrats), accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of having dismantled the infrastructure of a semi-public organization that in the past had water bombers and was in charge of the extinction of fires.

“I am going to cry with rage,” tweeted Muhammet Tokat on Tuesday, who had asked in vain during his numerous television appearances for a bomber plane to head towards Milas. Elected from the CHP, the city’s mayor is part of a growing number of voices critical of Recep Tayyip Erdogan because of his handling of the crisis.

The president also angered many Turks on social media by throwing tea bags at confused residents while visiting the affected city of Marmaris with a heavy police escort last weekend. Faced with growing voices on social media criticizing the government for insufficient intervention, the communications chief for the Turkish presidency, 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 fighting disasters. Police water cannons, which are normally used to disperse protests, were also deployed in fire zones, Turkish police said.

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