Wildfire halts shipping in Turkey’s Dardanelles strait

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A wildfire forced the partial suspension of shipping in Turkey’s busy Dardanelles strait for several hours on Tuesday, the country’s coastguard said.

The suspension affected vessels travelling southwards down the 60-kilometre (37-mile) waterway which links the Sea of Marmara with the Aegean Sea.

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“Marine traffic.. was temporarily suspended in the north-south direction,” the coastguard said on X, formerly Twitter, several hours after a fire began in the Canakkale province.

It later said traffic fully resumed shortly after 1900 GMT.

The fire began earlier in the day, with nine water-carrying planes, six helicopters and more than 360 firefighters drafted in to tackle the blaze, Turkish Agriculture Minister Ibrahim Yumakli wrote on X.

“Once again, a fire started during a stubble burning then spread to a forest,” he said.

As the flames advanced, rescuers had to evacuate a village in the Eceabat district, the provincial authorities said in a statement.

A natural frontier between Europe and Asia, the Dardanelles Strait is a key waterway for vessels travelling between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea via the Sea of Marmara just south of Istanbul.

Turkish transport ministry figures show some 44,892 vessels crossed the waterway in 2023, almost twice the volume in the Suez Canal and more than triple that of the Panama Canal.

Canakkale is a very popular tourist destination where the ancient ruins of Troy are located.

The area was the scene of a major World War I battle when Allied troops launched an ill-fated land campaign to wrest the Dardanelles from the Ottoman Empire.

It ended in bloody defeat for the British and French forces who only retreated after fighting that claimed tens of thousands of lives.

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