WORLD / EUROPE
Wildfire reaches Turkish power plant
Hundreds of villagers evacuated by sea as ‘tremendous wind’ fans flames
Published: Aug 05, 2021 06:53 PM
A man pushes a bicycle along a road in the vicinity of a forest fire close to the Kemerkoy Thermal Power Plant in northern Turkey on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

A man pushes a bicycle along a road in the vicinity of a forest fire close to the Kemerkoy Thermal Power Plant in northern Turkey on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Turkish rescuers on Thursday began evacuating hundreds of villagers by sea after a deadly wildfire engulfed the outer edges of a thermal power plant storing thousands of tons of coal.

An AFP team saw firefighters and police fleeing the 35-year-old Kemerkoy plant in the Aegean province of Mugla as bright balls of orange flame tore through the surrounding hills.

Hundreds of local villages - many clutching small bags of belongings grabbed from their abandoned houses as the evacuation call sounded - began piling onto coastguard speedboats at the nearby port of Oren.

The regional authority said "all explosive chemicals" and other hazardous material had been removed from the strategic site.

"But there's a risk that the fire could spread to the thousands of tons of coal inside," regional mayor Osman Gurun told reporters.

Local officials said hydrogen tanks used to cool the station had been emptied and filled with water as a precaution.

Turkish news reports said most of the coal had been moved from the plant to a storage site 5 kilometers away as a precaution when the blaze first approached the region at the start of the week.

More than 180 wildfires have scorched huge swathes of forest and killed eight people since breaking out along almost the entire perimeter of Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.

The European Union's satellite monitoring service said their "radiative power" - a measure of the fires' intensity - "has reached unprecedented values in the entire data set, which goes back to 2003."

The fires' strength and scale have exposed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to days of criticism for what some observers say has been his sluggish response to the crisis.

Erdogan had just begun a live television interview about the fires as news broke about the evacuation of the plant.

He acknowledged that the efforts of firefighters to save the station were failing in the face of "tremendous wind" fanning the flames.

But he also lashed out at opposition leaders for trying to score political points by questioning his governments' readiness and response.

AFP
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