Turkish coastguards evacuated hundreds of villagers from a burning power plant on Thursday and Greek firefighters battled a major blaze near the ancient Olympic site as a record heatwave created havoc across Europe’s southeast.
The two regional rivals have been united this week in their fight against disasters that officials and experts link to increasingly frequent and intense weather events. Eight people have died and dozens have been hospitalised across the southern coasts of Turkey since the wildfires erupted last week. Greece deployed large forces near Olympia to protect archeological sites where the first Olympic Games were held in antiquity.
“We’re waging a battle of the titans!” Greek deputy minister for civil protection Nikos Hardalias said. Later on, winds whipped up a flash fire that subsumed the grounds of an Aegean coast power plant in Turkey storing thousands of tonnes of coal. Hundreds of villagers — many clutching small bags of belongings grabbed from their abandoned houses as the evacuation call sounded — piled onto coastguard speedboats at the nearby port of Oren.
The regional authority said “all explosive chemicals” and other hazardous material had been removed from the strategic site. “But there’s a risk that the fire could spread to the thousands of tonnes of coal inside,” regional mayor Osman Gurun told reporters. A few older villagers in Oren refused to leave the disaster-hit region even while thousands of others were shuttled out by car or boats racing along the Aegean Sea.
“Where do you want us to go at our age?” asked 79-year-old Hulusi Kinic. “We live here. This is our home. Our last solution was to throw ourselves in the sea (if there was an explosion), but thank God that did not happen.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said an initial inspection showed the overnight blazes left “no serious damage to the main units in the plant”.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: REFORMER
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