Turkish wildfires are worst ever, Erdogan says, as power plant breached

MILAS, Turkey, Aug 4 (Reuters) – Turkey is battling the worst wildfires in its history, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, as fires spread to a power station in the country’s southwest after reducing swathes of coastal forest to ashes.

Fanned by high temperatures and a strong, dry wind, the fires have forced thousands of Turks and foreign tourists to flee homes and hotels near the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Eight people have died in the blazes since last week.

Planes and dozens of helicopters have joined scores of emergency crews on the ground to battle the fires, but Erdogan’s government has faced criticism over the scale and speed of the response.

More than a week after the first fires broke out, 16 were still burning on Wednesday, the forestry minister said.

“The fires that happened this year never happened in our history,” Erdogan told reporters in a televised interview. “This is the largest (outbreak).”

In the last two weeks, fires in Turkey have burnt more than three times the area affected in an average year, a European fire agency said. Neighbouring countries have also battled blazes fanned by heatwaves and strong winds.

A fire spread into a coal-fired power plant east of Bodrum in southwest Turkey after burning nearby since Tuesday, the local mayor said.

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