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Turkey fights forest fires on day 6; 10,000 are evacuated

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Turkey fights forest fires on day 6;  10,000 are evacuated
BOZALAN, TURKEY: Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said crews were still tackling seven fires in the coastal provinces of Antalya and Mugla, which are popular tourist areas. Other active fires occurred in Isparta, 380 kilometers (236 miles) to the northeast, and in Denizli province in southwestern Turkey.
Another fire in Tunceli, in southeastern Turkey, was contained on Monday, the minister said. In all, 129 fires that broke out in more than 30 provinces since Wednesday have been extinguished.
“We are going through days where the heat is above 40 C (104 degrees Fahrenheit), where the winds are strong and the humidity is extremely low,” Pakdemirli said. “We are fighting in such difficult conditions.”
In Bozalan, Esra Sanli sobbed as she pointed to a fire burning near the village.
“There is no plane, there is no helicopter, there are no roads. How is this going to be extinguished? How? ” she said.
Fire trucks, with their sirens on, headed towards Bozalan, as villagers were seen herding cows away from the area.
On Sunday, residents were forced to evacuate the nearby village of Cokertme as the flames approached. Some boarded small boats and others left in cars as the fire grew closer and closer, scenes that Ahmet Aras, the mayor of the nearby town of Bodrum, described as “hell.” Precautions were taken to protect two nearby thermal power plants.
An evacuation order was also issued for the town of Turunc, near the Marmaris seaside resort in Mugla province. People carrying suitcases fled in small boats.
The EU said it helped mobilize firefighting planes from Croatia and Spain to help Turkey. Aircraft from Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran have also been fighting the flames. Spain said it would send two dump planes and a transport plane, as well as 27 soldiers to help.
The EU announcement followed accusations that the Turkish government was compromising firefighting efforts by rejecting aid from Western nations. Pakdemirli refuted that, saying that the government had only rejected offers for planes whose water discharge capacity was less than 5 tons. A total of 16 planes, 51 helicopters and more than 5,000 people were dealing with the fires, he said.
The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also been widely criticized for not purchasing state-of-the-art firefighting aircraft.
In Marmaris, Mayor Mehmet Oktay said there were still fires in two locations and estimated that 11,000 hectares (28,000 acres) of forest had been burned. On Monday, a fire reached the edge of the village of Hisaronu, burning several houses and descending a mountainside onto a road as police evacuated teams of ambulances and journalists.
“Our lungs have been burning for the last five days,” Oktay told Haberturk television.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said at least 27 people affected by the fires were still being treated in hospitals, while hundreds of others had been treated and discharged.
Soylu, the interior minister, said authorities were investigating the cause of the fires, including human “carelessness” and possible sabotage by outlawed Kurdish militants. He said one person was detained on allegations that the group may have paid him to start a fire.
However, experts mostly point out that climate change is behind the fires, along with accidents caused by people. Erdogan has said that one of the fires was started by children.
A heat wave in southern Europe, fueled by hot air from North Africa, has sparked wildfires in the Mediterranean, including in Italy and Greece, where people had to be evacuated by sea to escape the flames.
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