Turkey: Qatari, Azerbaijani planes join wildfire fight

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Water-dripping planes from Azerbaijan and Qatar joined the fight on Friday against a wind-induced wildfire that burned for a fourth day near a popular resort in southwestern Turkey.

Turkey’s Forestry Minister, meanwhile, said the fire is almost under control, but the wind still poses a risk.

The fire broke out on Tuesday in the Bordubet region, near Marmaris on the Aegean coast, and quickly spread, blackening areas of pine forests and displacing hundreds of people from their homes.

At least 29 people were affected by the fire and 12 of them were taken to hospitals for treatment, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter. Two people are still in hospital, he said.

“The emergency is largely over,” Vahit Kirisci, the agriculture and forestry minister, told reporters, warning that winds remain a threat.

Authorities on Thursday arrested a 34-year-old man who allegedly confessed to setting the fire after an argument with relatives, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.

More than 2,500 firefighters and 41 waterdrop aircraft and helicopters were deployed to fight the blaze. On Friday, a plane from Azerbaijan and three helicopters from Qatar joined forces.

More than 400 people have been evacuated from their homes as a precaution, Turkish disaster relief agency AFAD said. About 3,000 hectares (about 7,400 acres) of forest have been affected, Kirisci said.

Ongoing drought in several Mediterranean countries, a heat wave that hit northern Germany last week and high fuel costs for planes needed to fight forest fires have heightened concerns across Europe this summer.

Last summer, fires fueled by strong winds and scorching temperatures tore through forests in the Mediterranean and Aegean region of Turkey, including Marmaris. The wildfires, which killed at least eight people and numerous animals, were described as the worst in Turkey’s history.

The government has been criticized for its inadequate response and preparedness to fight large-scale wildfires, including a lack of modern firefighting aircraft.

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