Azerbaijan, Qatar aircraft join wildfire fight in Turkey

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Water-dropping aircraft from Azerbaijan and Qatar on Friday joined the fight against a wind-stoked wildfire that burned for a fourth day near a popular resort in southwestern Turkey.

Turkey’s forestry minister, meanwhile, said the fire may be close to being contained but the wind still poses a risk.

The fire erupted Tuesday in the Bordubet region, near Marmaris on the Aegean Sea coast, and spread rapidly, blackening swaths of pine forest and driving hundreds of people from their homes.

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At least 29 people were affected by the blaze and 12 of them were taken to hospitals for treatment, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter. Two people remain hospitalized, he said.

“The distress is, to a great extent, over,” Vahit Kirisci, the agriculture and forestry minister, told reporters, cautioning that the wind remains a threat.

Authorities on Thursday detained a 34-year-old man who allegedly confessed to having started the fire following a row with family members, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.

More than 2,500 firefighters and 41 water-dropping planes and helicopters were deployed to fight the blaze. On Friday, a plane from Azerbaijan and three helicopters from Qatar joined their efforts.

More than 400 people have been evacuated from their homes as a precaution, Turkey’s disaster management agency, AFAD, said. Around 3,000 hectares (about 7,400 acres) of forest are affected, Kirisci has said.

Extended drought conditions in several Mediterranean countries, a heat wave last week that reached northern Germany and high fuel costs for aircraft needed to fight wildfires have heightened concerns across Europe this summer.

Last summer, blazes that were fed by strong winds and scorching temperatures tore through forests in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions, including Marmaris. The wildfires, which killed at least eight people and countless animals, were described as the worst in Turkey’s history.

The government came under criticism for its inadequate response and preparedness to fight large-scale wildfires, including a lack of modern firefighting planes.

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