Friday, September 22, 2023

Turkey closes strait to battle forest fire; hundreds evacuated

Turkey on Wednesday shut the busy Dardanelle Strait for a second day to help firefighters fill up with water and douse flames near the tourist town of Canakkale. Nine villages and more than 1,200 people have been evacuated as wildfires, raging in Greece, spread to neighbouring Turkey.

Emergency responders stated they had made progress containing a patchwork of fires that on Tuesday covered the edge of the popular seaside vacation destination with dark rolling clouds of smoke.

“It’s better today than yesterday,” Agriculture and Forestry Minister Ibrahim Yumakli said in televised remarks.

“Our friends stopped the fire from advancing. If there’s no wind, we will see the picture more clearly in the afternoon,” he added.

Officials say the flames had prompted the evacuation of 1,251 people and saw 48 seek hospital treatment for smoke inhalation.

The blaze also closed a local university campus and forced doctors to evacuate some patients from a hospital as a precaution.

The Dardanelle Strait links the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara and is a popular tourist destination because it is also the site of the ancient ruins of Troy.

The strait also handled grain ships that Ukraine sent before Russia pulled out of the wartime agreement last month.

Turkey has been trying to modernize its emergency response service after being gripped by hugely destructive fires along its southern and western coasts in 2021.

Those flames scorched more than 200,000 hectares (nearly 50,000 acres) of pine forest and claimed at least nine lives.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came under intense criticism for his response to the disaster at the time.

Its magnitude raised the political importance of environmental issues in Turkey and prompted Erdogan to push through Ankara’s long-delayed ratification of the Paris Climate Accords.

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