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Turkey is battling the worst wildfires in its history as intense flames “jump” to a power station, forcing residents to flee their homes, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday (local time).
The fires, which have claimed eight lives since they began last week, are being fanned by scorching heat and strong, dry winds that are making the blazes unpredictable.
Sixteen wildfires continue to burn seven days after igniting.
Thousands of Turks and foreign tourists have fled homes and hotels near the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.
The coal-fuelled Kemerkoy power plant in the country’s southwest and the nearby seaside area of Oren were evacuated on Wednesday as a fire reached the area.
Turkey’s defence ministry said people were being transported by sea.
State broadcaster TRT said the flames had “jumped” to the plant, but its hydrogen tanks and flammable and explosive substances had been removed.
"Flames have entered the thermal power plant," Muhammet Tokat, mayor of the town of Milas, said.
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.
"The fires that happened this year never happened in our history," Erdogan said 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.
More than 100 wildfires rage in Greece
Persistently high temperatures, which reached 45C on Wednesday and 40C on Thursday, have also ignited more than 100 wildfires in Greece, burning down numerous homes and businesses in Athens.
Fire crews have been fighting to keep flames away from the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games as the country swelters under a record heat wave — its worst since 1987.
Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said on Wednesday 118 wildfires had broken out over the past 24 hours.
“The toughest part lies ahead of us, the next days and weeks will be even harder. Our key target is to protect human lives,” he warned.
Shocking footage taken of Euboea, or Evia, the second-largest Greek island, shows thick smoke billowing into the air as the sky turns bright red. Flames reach into the air, approaching homes and holiday resorts.
The video appears to have been taken by a resident fleeing on a boat.
“Evia, there are no words,” the caption reads.
Birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games under threat
Evacuations have also taken place in Greece’s southern Peloponnese region due to a major fire near ancient Olympia — where the Olympics were held every four years from 776 B.C. for more than a millennium.
The adjacent town of Ancient Olympia was also evacuated, with another seven nearby villages.
The area was ravaged by wildfires in 2007 that cost dozens of lives but spared Olympia’s ruined sports venues and temples.
Greek scientists said the total destruction in just three days this month exceeded 50 per cent of the average area burnt in the country in previous years.
The EU Atmosphere Monitoring Service said smoke plumes from the region’s wildfires were clearly visible in satellite images.
With AP and Reuters
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