The Disaster and Management Authority (AFAD) has evacuated nine villages in the region as a precautionary measure after the forest fire engulfed northwestern Çanakkale late Tuesday afternoon, APA's Istanbul correspondent reports citing Daily Sabah.
The blaze has led to health issues for 83 people and 48 outpatients who required medical attention.
Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya took to social media to announce the deployment of 2,659 personnel from various agencies, including the Ministry of National Defense, the AFAD, the General Directorate of Forestry, police, gendarmerie, municipalities and special administrations. Additionally, a formidable fleet of resources, including eight aircraft, 26 helicopters, 240 water tanks and 71 water tankers, along with 328 other vehicles, were mobilized to the region. A comprehensive response plan was executed, leading to the evacuation of 337 households and 1,251 residents from nine villages in the affected area.
The fire has not spared even the elderly care facilities, as 72 residents from Sarıcaeli Village Elderly Care Home were safely moved to the Terzioğlu Credit and Dormitories Institution (KYK). In a bid to prevent further danger, the Çanakkale-Çan highway was temporarily closed to traffic. The Çanakkale Strait also saw restricted sea transportation due to the emergency situation.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister İbrahim Yumaklı provided crucial insights into the scale of the disaster, revealing that the fire had already consumed a staggering 1,500 hectares of land, of which 800 hectares were densely forested areas. Yumaklı acknowledged the limitations faced in nighttime firefighting and the reliance on four night vision helicopters. A team of approximately 1,500 personnel, supported by about 260 water sprinklers and construction equipment has tirelessly battled the blaze. As daylight broke, additional aircraft and helicopters were expected to join the relentless effort.
Yumaklı shed light on the broader situation of wildfires across the nation, disclosing that almost 29 fires were recorded on Wednesday, with 26 successfully contained. Alongside the Çanakkale inferno, fires in Bursa's Karacabey and Yenişehir regions captured authorities' attention. The efforts in Karacabey were successful in controlling the blaze, while substantial progress was made in curtailing the Yenişehir blaze.
Notably, Yumaklı cautioned against the prevalent wind's influence on the fire's rapid spread, covering approximately 15 kilometers (9 miles) within a mere six hours. Despite giving warnings to the affected village's residents, evacuation measures had yet to be implemented. Several vulnerable individuals, including the elderly from Sarıcaeli Village, found refuge in dormitories provided by KYK.
Weather conditions played a pivotal role, with scorching temperatures, wind speeds reaching 70 kph (43 mph) and humidity levels as low as 19% contributing to the fire's ferocity during the daytime. At present, the environment has slightly ameliorated, with temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit), humidity at 52% and winds clocking in at 35 kph.
Yumaklı extended heartfelt gratitude to the various agencies and individuals involved in the firefighting operations. He expressed hope for the safety and success of the courageous firefighters, assuring the public that the situation would improve with the concerted efforts of additional aircraft scheduled to join the operation at sunrise.
In a final plea, Yumaklı urged caution, emphasizing that human actions are responsible for over 90% of forest fires. He implored citizens not to spread false information, diverting precious resources away from the fire mitigation efforts. As the nation stands united against the looming catastrophe, resilience and prudence remain the need of the hour.