Forest fires continue to engulf Syrian border over past three days

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Amid a sweltering heatwave in Turkey, forest fires in the country’s southern border have been continuing over the past three days.

Around 100 hectares of forest land were burned to ashes as the fire in the Samandağ district and in rural settlements of the city center Antakya in the southern province of Hatay continued to rage on its third day.

In the ongoing extinguishing efforts, the teams are trying to control the flames by using the “counter-fire” technique in order to reduce or destroy the flammable materials in front of the fire.

Despite being taken under control twice, the fire reignited with the effect of wind and high temperature. However, authorities are also evaluating the case with the suspicion of whether the place was intentionally burned for an initiation.

“We have come to the present point about the fire because the wind changes direction and makes continuous jumps, the terrain conditions are really rough and of course the air is very dry,” said Bekir Pakdemirli, Turkey’s agriculture and forestry minister.

Noting that there was no loss of life, Pakdemirli stated that minor material damage occurred in the two settlements and that one settlement in Samandağ district was evacuated cautiously.

Twelve firefighting helicopters and two amphibious airplanes took off in the early morning hours to battle the fire raging in steep forest lands.

Forest fires were responded to with 182 waterjet engines, 24 construction vehicles, 45 technical personnel, and a total of 792 personnel, according to Pakdemirli.

“Today, 24 fires broke out in the whole country. Some 13 of them are under control, eight of them are completely extinguished and three of them continue,” he added.

Amanos Mountains, which start from Belen pass connecting Antakya to the Mediterranean and continue to Syria, restrict the mobility of the teams due to the dense vegetation and rugged conditions.

Opposite Samandağ district, located on the Syrian border, is the scene of a similar struggle. The forest fire that erupted in the countryside of Latakia, progressed towards the west of Hama province and has not been controlled yet.

While some villages of the district have been evacuated due to the forest fires whose cause has not been determined yet, firefighters and ambulances face difficulty in reaching the region because the roads are not suitable for vehicle crossings.

Hurriyet Daily News

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