Turkish wildfire continues spread
Thermal power plant, cattle threatened as disaster rages on
Published: Aug 04, 2021 05:03 PM
A forest fire burns near the town of Manavgat, east of the resort city of Antalya, Turkey, July 31, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

A forest fire burns near the town of Manavgat, east of the resort city of Antalya, Turkey, July 31, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

Roaring blazes encircled a Turkish thermal power plant Tuesday and forced farmers to herd panicked cattle toward the sea, as wildfires that have killed eight people raged for a seventh day.

The nation of 84 million has been transfixed in horror as the most destructive wildfires in generations erase pristine forests and rich farmland across swaths of Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean coasts.

Tourists have been forced to escape on boats for safety and dozens of villages have been evacuated as wild winds and soaring heat fan the flames.

An AFP team in the Aegean city of Hisaronu saw farmers pulling their screaming animals out of burning barns and shepherding them to the relative safety of the beach.

"The fire happened in an instant," local farmer Mevlut Tarim said after managing to pull some of his panicked herd through pitch-black smoke and patches of burning turf encircling his farm.

"I had never seen anything like it. You can't even call it a fire. It was really like a bomb," he added.

Officials in neighboring Greece have blamed two blazes on the island of Rhodes and the Peloponnese peninsula on a record heat wave they link to climate change.

Hundreds of firefighters, water-bombing planes and helicopters were battling forest fires near Athens that have already forced the evacuation of villages and closed a section of the main motorway there.

In south and central Albania, a heat wave sparked dozens of forest fires over the last week, with the first death reported on Tuesday.

A 64-year-old man died and his wife was seriously injured when they were trapped by a forest fire around their home in the southern region of Gjirokastra, near the Greek border, said police. 

Temperatures higher than 40 C across the south of Turkey have set off a record surge in electricity use that caused power outages Monday in cities such as Ankara and Istanbul.

But Muhammet Tokat, mayor of the Aegean coast city of Milas, said he was more worried about an uncontrolled fire threatening the local thermal power plant.

Tokat posted an increasingly urgent series of tweets showing the blazes spreading up a hill toward the presumed location of the plant.

He later reported briefing Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on the unfolding crisis before sheltering with other local officials by the beach.

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